In a recent Women In Optometry poll, 55 percent of the total respondents said they do not ask patients about their vaccination status. However, at a health care facility with high-risk patients, vaccination status is an important topic to mention.
Ann-Marie Mora, OD, is a clinical assistant professor at UT Health San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas. Her role is 90 percent clinical, so she constantly treats and interacts with patients who suffer from diabetes and other high-risk conditions. “I am on a public health mission to educate my patients and provide access to the vaccine,” she says.
INCORPORATING VACCINE IN THE EXAM ROOM
Dr. Mora started asking her patients about their vaccination status in January 2021, when UT Health San Antonio became one of the first vaccine distribution sites in Bexar County. While high-risk patients were allowed to get vaccinated before the general public, many of them struggled to find available appointments. But UT Health San Antonio patients had the unique privilege of having a guaranteed vaccine available. “I can’t forget the look of relief on patients’ faces when I informed them that they didn’t have to spend hours on a phone waiting for open slots,” she says.
Although vaccinations are now readily available to the general public, Dr. Mora continues to ask her patients about their vaccination status. The conversation can be natural and casual, she says. Just prior to the slit lamp exam, when she and the patient will be in the closest contact, Dr. Mora will ask if the patient has already received their COVID-19 vaccine and tell the patient that she has been fully vaccinated. If her patients are not vaccinated, she follows up and asks about their reasoning, always asking for their consent first. “Most of my patients have vaccine hesitancy due to lack of knowledge. I’m always eager to relay my experiences in hopes that I can address their concerns and encourage them to make the choice to get vaccinated or continue the conversation with their other health care specialists,” Dr. Mora says.
REQUIRING VACCINE TRANSPARENCY
Ever since UT Health San Antonio started a Best Practices Advisories program, which requires physicians to update patients’ medical records with their vaccination status, Dr. Mora has witnessed more physicians talk about vaccines in the exam room.
“I am proud of UT Health San Antonio, how we have made vaccinations readily accessible to our patients and how we foster a vaccine-transparent community. I am going to continue to share my experiences and provide a space where patients can learn and discuss,” Dr. Mora says.