Improving the uptake of pre-travel health advice amongst migrant Australians: exploring the attitudes of primary care providers and migrant community groups
BACKGROUND Cost, as well as accuracy and quality of medical care, is an important factor from the perspective of the health care payer. We evaluated the potential pharmacy cost savings, appropriateness of recommendations, and patient satisfaction associated with a proposed centralized travel medicine service in a large group-model health maintenance organization (HMO). METHODS From computerized pharmacy records, we identified 101 children 18 years of age or younger from six different facilities of Kaiser Permanente in northern California who obtained malaria prophylaxis, typhoid vaccine, or yellow fever vaccine for international travel from their primary care practitioner. We obtained records of all vaccinations and prescriptions provided to each patient and interviewed their parents concerning medical services they received in preparation for travel. We compared what vaccinations and prescriptions were actually given to expert recommendations, and compared total pharmacy costs for actual versus recommended care. RESULTS Travel advice obtained from primary care practitioners in this system was often inefficient and varied from expert recommendations. Primary care practitioners frequently overestimated risk, leading to unnecessary prescribing, especially of mefloquine and typhoid vaccine. This created potential cost-savings of US $12 per patient (17% of total pharmacy costs per patient). We were unable to quantify additional savings that could result from improved efficiency of providing care. CONCLUSIONS A travel medicine clinic staffed by practitioners who provide expert and current advice may provide savings in pharmaceutical costs as well as improvements in quality of care compared to primary care practitioners without expertise in travel medicine.