Immunization Information Systems have come a long way. We’ve become proficient at getting records INTO the system. Now we are expanding ways of getting information OUT.
Here’s a heartwarming story of making the work of school nurses and others who use immunization records a little easier.
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF
THE BOY WHO DID NOT CRY
Dale Dauten, King Features Columnist,
and Janet Traylor
GREGORY (a Detective with Scotland Yard): Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
SHERLOCK HOLMES: To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.
GREGORY: The dog did nothing in the night-time.
HOLMES: That was the curious incident.
That’s from Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “Silver Blaze,” about a missing racehorse. The fact that the dog did NOT bark causes Holmes to conclude that the horse was led away from the stables by someone familiar to the dog, thus ruling out the chief suspect.
Today we have another mystery: the case of the boy who did not cry.
This October a family moved from the State of Washington to Arizona. One of their priorities was getting their son enrolled in school. So they went down to Sunset Hills Elementary in suburban Phoenix and worked through the necessary steps. The final one involved being sent to the school nurse, Kimberly Black, who explained that the boy couldn’t enroll unless his vaccinations were up-to-date. The parents assured the nurse that they were; after all, he’d been enrolled in school in Washington and gotten his shots before school started. However, official records were required. Did the family have doctors’ records?
Well… yes, they did… in a box somewhere in the middle of a hundred boxes unpacked in their new house.
This was a common problem for Nurse Kimberly Black. She puts the percentage of the school’s transfer students coming from out-of-state at 50%, and of those, three-quarters need to request immunization records. Not only are the parent’s records often packed away, but, “the parents don’t remember the doctor’s name or phone number, or the school they’re coming from is not quick to cooperate.”
However, the family from Washington got lucky. Nurse Black made a phone call to the Department of Health in Washington and her call happened to be taken by Michele Roberts, Director of the Office of Immunizations. Roberts describes that call:
The school nurse had a student who moved from Washington and was missing info on a couple of doses that the child received here. We get a lot of similar calls and I usually transfer them to admin staff. But no one was at their desks, so I decided to finish helping her myself. I was starting to tell her about where to get our Records Request Form for the family to fill out, but thought to ask if she was a user of the Arizona IIS [Immunization Information System]. She was. I let her know she could [use her computer to] query our system in Washington, and she quickly figured out how to that, looked up the child and found the two missing doses! She was so excited this worked and I was thrilled to be able to help her quickly without her having to make a formal records request.
Nurse Black says, “It was so easy! The shots pulled right up and we learned the student had exactly what he needed. So he was able to start school right away. It was all of a five-minute process and he went to class.”
What would the alternative have been? The nurse and parent get a request form, fax it to the prior school, then wait for someone there to find the records, scan them, then fax them back. Because it’s not a priority for the other schools, Black has learned to turn to state immunization departments. Still, it can take days.
All of which brings us back to the boy who did not cry. How does that fit our story? Sometimes parents get so frustrated over immunization records they simply go out and get their children re-vaccinated. That’s exactly what did NOT happen here. So the boy didn’t get dragged to another doctor for another pair of shots, and thus did not cry.
But that brings us to another mystery — why doesn’t this rapid transfer of information happen more often? Shouldn’t it be routine?
The folks at Scientific Technologies Corporation (STC), leaders in state immunization information systems known as “registries,” created both the one in Washington and in Arizona. STC has solved the problem of “interoperability” [information systems “talking” to each other] for its clients and is working to achieve communication across all the state systems.
Mike Popovich, STC’s CEO, says, “The immunization information is there, waiting, and we are determined to get it into the hands of parents and school officials. Done right, it will take minutes, not days, and it will free busy school personnel and state employees from calls and faxes and digging through records. We want every family and school official to have the NO-PROBLEM! experience we saw in Arizona.”