THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

Pharmacists play key role in shingles immunization rates

A recent study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University found that mailing written information about the shingles virus to persons over the age of 60 tripled immunization rates among this population.

The team of researchers, led by Ohio State's College of Pharmacy Pharmacist Stuart Beatty, blames low shingles vaccination rates on patients' lack of awareness, access to the herpes zoster vaccine, cost and the limited ability to discuss shingles with elderly during short, routine visits.

"With older patients, there are usually more pressing health issues to discuss during routine appointments, so herpes zoster falls off the list," Beatty said. "Plus, as a live vaccine, it's not appropriate for people with certain illnesses. There usually isn't time to figure all that out in a regular office visit."

To overcome this issue, Beatty and his team delegated pharmacists with access to the electronic medical record of their patients to find all patients over the age of 60 that had not received the herpes zoster vaccination, but were eligible. The EMR produced more than 2,500 names and each patient received information about shingles through email or postcard, except those belonging to the control group; the control group received no information.

Patients who had an active email registered in the EMR who also received information about shingles had the highest vaccination rate, at 13.2 percent, compared to 5.0 percent for patients with active emails who received no information. Patients that did not have an active email in their EMR who received mailed information about shingles had an immunization rate of 5.0 percent, compared to 1.8 percent for those who received no information.

Neeraj Tayal, who was a part of the research team, said this study suggests that pharmacists can play an active role in improving the immunization rate for elderly patients at risk of shingles by simply sending information about the illness to their patients.

"It took pharmacists a matter of minutes to review the chart and mail out a prescription," Tayal said. "This saved the physician time, the patient time, and improved the overall health of our patients. By utilizing pharmacists as members of a care team, many perceived logistical barriers were managed and overcome."