Background on Provider Education
What is provider education for immunization?
- Provider education strategies give information, resources and support to providers for counseling or providing services to individuals to improve immunization rates.
- Traditionally, health care providers include those professionally trained to work in clinical settings, such as physicians or nurses. For community-based interventions, providers may also include individuals working in schools such as school nurses or guidance counselors, worksites including worksite wellness professionals, faith-based organizations such as health ministers or parish nurses and other private or public community settings such as senior community centers and grocery stores.
- These strategies may involve training, reminders or prompts to assist providers in interacting with their patients or clients.
- Educating providers to counsel their patients or clients can:
- provide information about the health benefits of immunizations;
- remind providers about the indications and recommendations for immunization;
- improve understanding of the side effects that might occur with immunization;
- enhance provider’s understanding of concerns regarding immunizations and of how to discuss concerns with patients;
- address ethical and professional issues related to immunizations;
- increase support and reduce barriers for immunizations; and
- improve culturally competent communication between individuals and providers.
How can I use provider education strategies to improve immunization rates?
- Health care providers are a primary and respected source of health information. Many individuals and families seek out the advice of health care providers to maintain their health and quality of life on a regular basis. Therefore, health care providers and practitioners are ideally suited to have an ongoing influence on decisions to be immunized.
- Provider education, when used alone, can help to increase immunization rates. Providers can give recommendations and support to patients and clients who are making decisions about immunizations. Therefore, provider education may be particularly useful in helping individuals become ready to report the incident and accept or seek services.
- Previous work shows that interventions with provider education and other strategies that act to create changes in policies, environments, knowledge/awareness or skills are more effective than the use of provider education strategies alone.
What are the different strategies to improve immunization rates?
- Provider education refers to the training of providers and practitioners to enhance their interaction with patients and clients. The information given to patients or clients may be provided face-to-face or over the phone, during a single session or over multiple sessions or through informational materials including brochures or videos. During the interactions with patients or clients, providers typically provide the following activities:
- An assessment of an individual’s knowledge, beliefs and behaviors. As part of this they may discuss the importance of immunization.
- An opportunity for the individual to ask questions or clarify what they have been told. This exchange with the provider can help to ensure that the individual understands the information and recommendations that they have been provided.
- Referrals and resources within the community to assist the individual in following recommendations for immunizations, such as free or low-cost immunization opportunities.
- Follow up with the patient or client, including a re-assessment of the individual’s behaviors as a discussion of challenges, benefits and advice for future immunizations.
- Provider reminder systems are another part of provider training. Provider reminder systems give cues or prompts to providers to increase the likelihood that they will discuss immunizations with clients or patients. Provider reminder systems use different types of prompts including:
- changes to the individual’s file, such as stickers or colored folders;
- changes in the physical environment, such as posters in exam rooms; or
- personal prompts, such as laminated pocket-sized information sheets, computerized systems, faxes, emails or brochures.
What do I need to know to develop provider education strategies?
- Provider education training works best if it is hands-on and practical. This may include discussions among providers about how to counsel or provide advice to specific individuals, how to respond to individual barriers, how to reach high-risk populations, how to work in different settings and how to build these strategies into the provider’s practice style.
- Previous studies show it is important to consider strategies over a longer time period, provide specific advice to individuals based on their unique circumstances and train providers on community and policy influences on behaviors. It is also useful to share methods for patient tracking, repeat counseling and referrals.
- It is useful for interventions with providers to be done in a quick and succinct manner. Some have found it useful to provide a series of workshops or sessions rather than one single, but longer, session.
- It is difficult to understand the effectiveness of these interventions because the interaction between the provider and individual is unique for each individual, short in duration (less than 5 minutes), may involve recommendations for multiple behaviors at once or may lack institutional support for sharing this type of information during a visit.
Who do I work with to create provider education strategies?
- To develop your provider education, you may want to work with the following individuals or groups:
- health departments
- health care facilities
- civic and community organizations
- senior/independent living facilities
- faith-based organizations
- researchers and evaluators
- advocacy organizations
- communications or advertising agencies