News Release: Emory Healthcare

Jun. 2,  2010

Emory Healthcare Attains Gold Level Status for Joint Commission Flu Vaccination Program

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Emory Healthcare has been recognized by Joint Commission Resources as a "Gold Tier" hospital for having one of the top seasonal influenza vaccination rates for health care professionals and organizations.

Every year in the United States, anywhere between 5 percent and 20 percent of the population will get the flu. And on average, over 200,000 hospitalizations occurred each year as a result of influenza and its complications.

To help curb the spread of this preventable disease, Joint Commission Resources recently launched its "Flu Vaccination Challenge." The program is designed to increase vaccination rates among healthcare workers by challenging hospitals to achieve flu vaccination rates higher than the current national level of 42 percent among their staff.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that flu vaccination is the most effective method for preventing the flu and its potentially severe complications. As part of the program, hospitals reporting a 90 percent or higher vaccination rate amongst employees were honored with Gold Tier status. Those hospitals reporting at least a 75 percent rate were recognized with Silver Tier and a reporting rate of at least 65 percent were awarded Bronze.

 "This is an outstanding recognition, which is reflective of our continued drive to improve patient safety and outcomes," says John T. Fox, Emory Healthcare president and CEO. "With the focused commitment of every Emory Healthcare member, we have created a safer environment for our patients, their families and ourselves. I thank and congratulate everyone for championing this life-saving initiative. Our actions send a strong message to the community and underscores our mission to serve humanity."

According to Cynthia Hall, RN, director for employee health, a strong communications program is key in educating and encouraging employees to take action to protect patients, as well as themselves. But a cultural emphasis on patient safety is behind Emory's successful numbers.

"Vaccination against the flu is one of the quickest and easiest things a health care professional can do to protect themselves, their families and our patients," says Hall. "A shot in the arm has quickly become a badge of honor for thousands of employees at Emory. And this year, as proven by the fact that more than 90 percent of our employees took this quick - but important step to protect our patient - our commitment to quality and patient safety has become more evident than ever."

Since 1981, CDC has recommended annual influenza vaccinations for all health care personnel. Despite these ongoing recommendations, vaccination rates, as measured by the CDC, have remained low - between 36 and 43 percent for health care professionals. The transmission of influenza from health care personnel (HCP) to patients can create serious health care problems, especially among those who are at high risk for complications related to influenza.

"Our employees, most all of whom interact with patients in one capacity or another, from nurses at the bedside, to admissions representatives who assist patients filling out forms, are committed to keeping our patients, their families and our colleagues safe," says William Bornstein, MD, chief quality officer for Emory Healthcare.

"Vaccination against seasonal influenza has proven to be an easy, safe and important way in which we create a safe, healthy environment," notes Bornstein. "Every year, patients in hospitals across the country contract influenza infection from health care workers. These patients, particularly the elderly and infirm, are at increased risk of severe complications from influenza - including death.

"This past year proved to be even more challenging than usual because of the combination of both the novel H1N1 ("swine flu") pandemic and the seasonal flu," says Bornstein. "But, the commitment of our employees to protecting our patients, visitors, themselves and their loved ones, as evidenced by this Gold Tier recognition, is nothing short of exemplary, and should set the bar higher for every hospital and healthcare organization nationwide - including Emory."


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

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Twitter: @emoryhealthsci

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