Streptococcus pneumoniae-associated infections are an important cause of hospitalization and mortality in high-risk and elderly patients. Even in the setting of appropriate therapy, the case fatality rate of invasive pneumococcal disease in the elderly may approach 40%. Since approximately 40,000 people die annually from pneumococcal-associated disease, it represents a substantial target for vaccine-preventable, bacterial fatalities. The 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine has proven consistently effective in preventing invasive pneumococcal disease. Despite its endorsement by numerous specialty societies, the pneumococcal vaccine is underutilized in the inpatient setting. In a recent report of quality indicators for Medicare beneficiaries, the percentage of Medicare beneficiaries in Louisiana admitted with pneumonia who were screened or received the pneumococcal vaccination prior to discharge was only 4%, the lowest percentage in the United States. The Louisiana State University-New Orleans Internal Medicine Department and its house staff embarked upon a retrospective study to determine its baseline pneumococcal vaccination or screening rates for all patients with pneumonia on its inpatient services at the The Medical Center of Louisiana in New Orleans from July 2000 through June 2001. From July 2001 through June 2002 an intensive educational intervention concentrating on the indications and benefits of pneumococcal vaccination was directed toward the Louisiana State University Internal Medicine house staff assigned to the inpatient service. Retrospective analysis for pneumococcal vaccine screening and administration of charts of all patients with pneumonia on the LSU Medicine service from July 2001 through June 2002 was performed in order to determine the effects of the intervention. Data from the pre-educational intervention period revealed a baseline pneumococcal vaccine screening or administration rate of 11% for all patients with pneumonia on the LSU Internal Medicine inpatient service. During the one-year intervention period, the pneumococcal vaccine screening or administration rate increased to 71%, a clinically and statistically significant increase (p-value < 0.0001). Data targeting patients 65 years of age and older revealed a baseline pneumococcal vaccine screening or administration rate of 10% for patients with pneumonia on the LSU Internal Medicine inpatient service which increased to 82% during the one year educational intervention (p-value < 0.0001). House officer scores (possible range 0-100) on a questionnaire assessing their understanding of the indications and benefits of pneumococcal vaccination were significantly higher after the educational intervention compared to before the intervention (means +/- standard deviations, 68 +/- 9 vs. 59 +/- 10, p < 0.0001). The findings from this study highlight the importance of education in increasing compliance with widely-accepted practice guidelines such as pneumococcal vaccine screening or administration in patients hospitalized with pneumonia.
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