Telligen – the Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO) serving Illinois, Iowa and Colorado – has formed a multi-faceted partnership with several industry leaders as part of a new collaborative program addressing health disparities. Aiming to raise immunization rates among seniors in Illinois, the program is driven by Telligen’s partnerships with Walgreens, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL), the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and several community and faith-based organizations.
Immunization is the most recent focus of Telligen’s efforts to promote disease prevention. In addition to growing relationships with clinicians and hospitals to increase patient immunization rates, the QIN-QIO is working with the team of health care, government, non-profit and private-sector partners to bring immunization services to Chicago communities where health disparities exist.
With support from CHA, Telligen is helping to deliver immunization education and services to Medicare beneficiaries in 40 public housing locations. Throughout September and October 2015, Telligen staff will visit these locations to educate CHA residents about seasonal flu, pneumonia and shingles vaccines, and register them to be immunized the following week. Telligen will coordinate mobile vans and drivers provided by BCBSIL, and pharmacists from Walgreens will administer the vaccinations. Immunizations will be provided in the mobile vans the week following the Telligen educational program.
“Many of our seniors don’t feel safe walking in their communities, and many live in areas where there is a shortage of health professionals. That’s why bringing the services to the community is so important. It removes the barrier to access.”
According to Telligen, past flu seasons have seen a surge in influenza-related hospitalizations and clinic visits between Thanksgiving and the second week of January. Seniors who do not receive a seasonal flu shot before the winter holiday season are commonly exposed to family and friends experiencing early onset of flu, which increases seniors’ risk of flu-related illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that full immunization occurs approximately two weeks following a flu vaccine; accordingly, Telligen and its partners will promote seasonal flu immunizations by November 11.
The city’s large Medicare population amplifies the need for accessible preventive care. According to the CDC, 79 percent of pneumonia and influenza-associated deaths during the 2014 – 2015 flu season occurred in adults aged 65 and older. The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that an average of 3,500 individuals in Illinois die each year from the flu or pneumonia.
Telligen’s earlier work on its Healthy Connections Project – a Special Innovation Project from CMS focused on identifying seniors’ perceived barriers to using preventive services – revealed that the most common barriers to immunization were myths surrounding vaccines and a lack of access to services. By providing education in advance of immunization days and offering direct access to vaccines, Telligen and its partners are addressing the biggest challenges to disease prevention among Chicago’s senior residents.
Ongoing gun violence and lack of resources in many Chicago communities serve as obstacles to immunization access. The neighborhoods served by Telligen’s program tend to have the highest rates of poverty and unemployment, the highest occurrences of avoidable hospitalizations and readmissions, and a prevalence of food and pharmacy deserts.
“Many of our seniors don’t feel safe walking in their communities, and many live in areas where there is a shortage of health professionals,” said Naji Hattar, Quality Improvement Facilitator at Telligen. “That’s why bringing the services to the community is so important. It removes the barrier to access.”
As part of its educational outreach, Telligen will participate in the First Ladies Health Initiative, a non-profit program dedicated to improving the health of local residents. The program’s annual First Ladies Health Day will take place September 27, 2015 at more than 50 churches in Chicago’s south and west sides. During the observance, the wives of church pastors – known “First Ladies” – will coordinate health and disease prevention fairs to promote education and access to services. As a founding partner of the Initiative, Walgreens will administer vaccines at each site.
Telligen’s partnerships with local organizations and large health care-focused corporations are based on trust and shared goals for improving the quality of life for those they serve.
Pat Merryweather, Telligen Executive Director, said, “When you develop a foundation of trust among partners with a common goal, you can accomplish more than one organization working alone could ever dream of accomplishing.”