As this country continues to endure the global COVID-19 pandemic, the news of vaccines being deployed and millions of Americans receiving them is a much-needed wave of relief.
Behind the scenes, however, vaccine program rollout, tracking and administration is the most complex nationwide healthcare initiative since the polio vaccine in the 1950s. An already over-worked, burned-out healthcare system is pressured to take on another challenging task never been done before — and do it efficiently, equitably and flawlessly as the eyes of the world are watching. Additionally, it is not a one-time event; the model and supporting program will drive the future of healthcare delivery.
Healthcare organizations must have the right technology and processes in place to execute and sustain a vaccine administration program. From EHR to ERP systems to volunteer coordination to vaccination distribution, organizations need a robust, reliable patient portal, a contact center for patient outreach (likely in multiple languages) and the flexibility to scale up and down quickly. And all this needs to be up and running now.
This is a significant paradigm shift healthcare systems must navigate.
Multiple Challenges, Multiple Solutions
There are multiple challenges healthcare organizations must work through as part of their vaccination program development and deployment. The biggest challenge being the approach to the rollout and the communication of the program to patients and other stakeholders.
Providers must successfully manage both a massive influx of inbound communication from inquiring patients, as well as the expectation to produce reliable outbound communications to their communities regarding vaccine specifics and vaccination processes for their location.
Providers not only need solutions to handle volume, but also must also consider any technical configurations necessary to support communication and streamline the patient experience, whether that be rapidly expanding patient portal capabilities or building out self-scheduling capabilities in short order.
There are many logistical challenges to contend with in COVID-19 vaccination planning. The most widely available vaccines today, Moderna and Pfizer, have unique cold storage requirements which require staff training, tracking and record keeping. For rural providers, distance presents another challenge for both patients and distribution processes. These logistical challenges also are compounded with the two–dose requirement for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
There are innumerable mechanics necessary to ensure patient safety. Most patients need two shots, and both have to be from the same vaccine manufacturer. The timing between the doses also is different between the manufacturers. Most frontline staff have not had experience with the complexity and detail associated with tracking and lot management at this scale.
Prior to COVID-19, most EHRs did not support multi-variable vaccine tracking. Today, vendors are rapidly deploying new functionality to help better manage patients, administration and reporting. One unexpected challenge is if a person goes to a different location for their second dose. That second provider may have no record of the first vaccine. How can that information be made accessible when it is needed?
As providers work to find solutions to immediate challenges in COVID-19 vaccine management programs, the solutions must be sustainable. The pandemic has affirmed the need for health systems to have reliable capabilities such the ability to quickly scale existing services, communicate proactively and handle an influx of demand for extended periods of time in the case of an unforeseen event (like a pandemic or natural disaster).
It Can Be Done
Despite the massive challenges of building and sustaining a vaccination management program, it can and will be done. Healthcare organizations need to establish a dedicated team and build a detailed plan addressing immediate, near-term and long-term priorities across impacted areas and a broad range of stakeholders. This program needs to be deemed mission critical, have executive champions and have engagement and broad communication across the organization and the community.
Healthcare organizations are already stretched thin—financially, operationally and technically. Many organizations have great leaders, but they cannot spare them, and/or they may not have available technical resources needed to implement a vaccination program. Experienced partners can provide the necessary resources to plan and execute vaccination management programs. Pivot Point Consulting is serving as regulatory and strategic advisors, managing program builds, providing technical and reporting talent and providing call center support, as well as providing support by offloading other projects when key team members are re-focused on COVID-19.
Pivot Point Consulting can assist health systems with the following immediate, near term and ongoing priorities:
- Registration / scheduling build
- One-time registration codes
- Mobile device deployment
- Barcodes and QR codes
- RTE workflow
- Patient portal build
- Patient awareness and communication
- Mass vaccination service deployment and integration
- Federal / State vaccination program coordination, management and reporting
- Public health coordination
- Patient experience
- Unified patient communications
- Patient communications
- Multiple language / translator services
Ongoing Support Services
- Patient portal support
- Patient call center
- Patient operations (inbound / outbound scheduling)
One positive thing we are seeing across the country is organizations that have historically been rivals coming together for the greater good. COVID-19 is not a market share opportunity. The mindset now is ‘let’s figure out how to do this together.’
Pharmacy giants, CVS and Walgreens, for example, announced a partnership to assist the elderly and take some of the burden off traditional clinics and hospitals. Notably, the underserved are at greater risk for COVID-19, and health systems have the opportunity to use their EHRs, data analytics and reporting to positively impact population health when used strategically. In rural areas, health care providers are partnering with community organizations such as the VFW, shelters and food banks. People are thinking about the social and healthcare safety net in their communities and leveraging resources to drive education to those who may be resistant and/or uneducated about the vaccine.
With all the challenges and obstacles this pandemic is presenting, there are also opportunities. The healthcare industry is doing a lot of good for their communities and the people they serve. By continuing to come together, we can create a foundation to fundamentally change healthcare for the future.
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Zack Tisch, Vice President, Strategic Growth, is a dynamic healthcare IT executive leader with 15 years’ experience in leading complex, integrated healthcare information technology projects at some of the nation’s leading healthcare institutions, such as Cedars-Sinai, MD Anderson Cancer Center, UCLA Health and Stanford Heath Care. He is passionate about maximizing value out of the EHR systems to provide efficient, effective patient care.
In his role leading Strategic Growth for clients, Zack focuses on architecting high value solutions to enable client growth as well as process and resource optimization. Zack is a former Epic employee and is certified in 15 Epic applications. He is also a PMP. Zack received his BA from Duke University and has completed Executive MBA Coursework at UCLA and the University of Texas.
Laura Kreofsky, Pivot Point Consulting Vice President VP, Advisory & Telehealth, brings a wealth of expertise to her role leading Pivot Point Consulting’s Advisory practice. Over the past 27 years, she has led health IT planning, implementation and operations in the private and public sectors; working with and for academic medical centers, community hospitals, insurers, public health agencies and international clients. Her areas of focus include IT-enabled business strategy, IT operations and governance and industry regulations and reform. Additionally, she directs Pivot Point’s thought leadership, providing insight and guidance on health IT policy, emerging technologies and industry trends.