The American Medical Association has issued its second "quality care alert," warning that pneumonia immunization rates for the elderly are too low.
The AMA and 10 other major medical societies distributed the alert. They want to raise patient awareness of the threat of resistant strains of bacteria that cause pneumonia. The alert was circulated to 224,000 patient-care physicians.
The streptococcus pneumonia bacterium causes the deaths of 10,000 to 20,000 people per year in the United States, the AMA said. Medicare will pay for vaccinations, yet only 45% of Medicare-age citizens get immunized. Senior citizens, nursing-home patients and younger people with chronic illnesses should see their doctors and determine their immunization status, the AMA suggests.
The AMA's quality care alerts were created to help physicians, patients, hospitals and health plans to stay abreast of the latest medical knowledge and practices and to encourage more consistent practice patterns around the country.
A similar effort by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations seeks to warn hospitals of potential unrecognized dangers to quality care.
The AMA's two-page alert includes recommendations for immunization or revaccination, and a list of references. The first alert, issued Dec. 7, 1998, recommended increased use of beta blockers after heart attacks.
In other news, the AMA's board of trustees has decided that the AMA should not form a national collective bargaining unit for physicians, pending a full debate by the AMA's House of Delegates at its annual meeting in June.
The board conducted a "detailed analysis of the possible benefits and risks," said board Vice Chairman D. Ted Lewers, M.D. He said forming a bargaining unit "has profound implications for the AMA, the medical profession and our patients."