A recent text-based campaign at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital to identify unvaccinated children led to an increase in vaccinations and no instances of healthcare-associated measles.

The hospital's Department of Infection Prevention and Control (IP&C) collaborated with other departments to harness information technology—including text message alerts to vulnerable patients—during the measles outbreak earlier this year. The findings were presented at the recent IDWeek 2014 meeting.

As the measles outbreak unfolded from February to April 2014, IP&C identified 537 patients who may have been exposed to the virus. To determine their vaccination status, the hospital synchronized its immunization registry with New York City's and found that 287 patients had either no immunity or an unknown immune status.

An alert was put into these patients' electronic health records to ensure that the medical staff was aware of the exposure status and the isolation requirements should the patient return to NewYork-Presbyterian. The EHRs also contained measles order sets which included links to the Department of Health specimen collection forms to facilitate testing of suspect cases of measles.

In fact, 20 percent of the potentially exposed patients returned to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital for primary care or for care of other health issues while they were potentially infectious for measles. Due to the alerts in the EHRs and the other interventions taken, there were no healthcare-associated measles cases during this outbreak at the hospital.

NewYork-Presbyterian was also proactive in increasing vaccination rates in the community during the outbreak. Using its immunization registry, the hospital identified 266 children aged 1-6 who had not yet received a measles vaccine. The hospital sent text messages to these families urging them to have their children vaccinated immediately. The texts included walk-in hours as well. To date, 48 percent of those children have received their measles vaccination.

"The IT resources mobilized during this outbreak were an invaluable resource in communicating our infection prevention and control plan to front line staff," said Maria Messina, lead researcher on the study. "We were also able to communicate important information about the epidemiology of the outbreak across the healthcare system."

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