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How a value-based primary care provider helps the New Jersey Vaccination Program

When news broke that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were approved for distribution, Vanguard Medical Group (Vanguard), a primary care practice with 10 offices in northern and central New Jersey, moved quickly to apply to the State to become a vaccine distribution center. As a value-based provider, Vanguard had population health experience and the technology, infrastructure and capability to administer and track immunizations. These capabilities put Vanguard into a strong position to be accepted into the New Jersey vaccination program.

“Once we learned the requirements to give vaccines, we worked to get everything into place,” said Thomas McCarrick, MD, Vanguard. The practice even took the initiative to purchase the refrigeration system needed to store the anticipated stock of the vaccines.

Vanguard also had already demonstrated they could administer vaccines in a safe and effective way by giving drive-up flu shots.

“In anticipation of giving COVID vaccines, we started thinking about volume and safety issues. To work out the logistics, we started doing flu shots outside to learn what we could handle,” Dr. McCarrick said. Of the 13,000 flu shots Vanguard administered during the 2020 to 2021 flu season, the majority of them were successfully administered in their office parking lots.

Vanguard becomes a New Jersey vaccination site

On November 23, 2020, Vanguard was excited to learn they were one of the first physician practices accepted into the New Jersey Vaccination Program. The day the first shipment of Moderna vaccines arrived, staff decided who would unload the vaccines and who would take pictures.

“Everyone wanted to do their part. It was exciting to be there and be able to do this for patients and be part of the COVID treatment,” Dr. McCarrick says.

Targeted outreach and population health management

The State asked Vanguard to prioritize vaccine distribution to health care providers and frontline personnel in the community first, then high-risk patients.

Vanguard started with extensive outreach to local health care providers, and then partnered with community organizations, including police, firefighters and schools, to vaccinate frontline workers.

Vanguard, a Horizon BCBSNJ value-based partner, used a population health management strategy to identify and contact high-risk patients. The practice was particularly concerned about their patients enrolled in Vanguard's homebound program and their elderly patients.

For homebound patients, Vanguard spoke with the patients' families and caregivers to get many of them vaccinated at the drive-thru locations. For those who couldn't leave their home, Vanguard scheduled at-home appointments.

“We all pulled together to get as many homebound patients vaccinated as possible, and we went to their homes if necessary. We were confident that 100% percent of eligible homebound patients would be vaccinated,” Dr. McCarrick said.

Vanguard's patient-focused outreach and their connection to their patients enabled the practice to vaccinate more than 54% of patients over 80 years of age. Most of the remaining seniors received their vaccines in their senior living facilities or at the state vaccine sites.

“The elderly are especially at high risk to get severe effects of COVID. Many of them don't have the ability to leave their homes to get vaccinated. So we did phone outreach to our 271 patients over the age of 90 then worked down age brackets, so we could go to them,” says Dr. McCarrick.

Patient-centered care results in high-vaccine rate

By May 2021, Vanguard had administered over 12,200 vaccines to their patients and the community. Vanguard's patient-centered values and commitment to patient engagement can be credited for overcoming their patients' hesitancy about the vaccine and achieving low vaccine refusal rates.

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, their patients looked to Vanguard for the most up-to-date information about the virus and vaccines. The entire staff at Vanguard is committed to achieving a high level of trust with their patients, through the care they provide and the educational information they share.