Friday, January 13, 2012

Protecting patients from pneumococcal disease


PREVENTING DISEASE: Hooper, left, and Nordberg

In early January, the MGH announced increased inpatient screening for vaccination against pneumococcal disease. In addition to patients 65 years and older with associated risk factors – including chronic heart or lung disease, diabetes, renal failure, immunocompromise, smoking and alcohol abuse – MGH’s electronic clinical system now automatically flags patients for potential vaccination if they are ages 6 through 64 and have risk factors.  Vaccination is highly effective in preventing pneumococcal disease, which can lead to serious illness.

This new policy and the technology developed to support it are the result of years of collaboration among the Infection Control Unit, the Center for Quality and Safety, Patient Care Services and Information Systems. Those involved in the multidisciplinary project anticipate it will benefit a large number of patients each year and may even save lives.

“Public authorities are increasingly looking to hospitals to assume an active role in vaccination screening,” says David Hooper, MD, chief of the Infection Control Unit, who led the project with Paul Nordberg, senior consultant for Performance Improvement. “Hospitalization is an important window of opportunity for caregivers to identify at-risk patients and provide the vaccinations that can protect them.” 

“From encouraging a new line of thought about the role of hospitals in vaccination to developing the technology to identify patients who should be vaccinated, this project required a remarkable amount of teamwork,” Nordberg adds. “We hope it will serve as a framework for future vaccination screening efforts.”

For more information about pneumococcal disease, visit For more information about the MGH pneumococcal disease vaccination policy, email Nordberg at 

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