Patient Activation for Distributing COVID-19 Vaccines

January 28, 2021 | Stericycle Communication Solutions

The largest vaccination campaign in history has begun. As of January 23, Bloomberg reported more than 60.3 million doses have been administered in 55 countries with a rate of 2.95 million doses a day. While the U.S. has quickly ramped up vaccine efforts, critics say it hasn't been enough with many issues arising in the early days of Operation Warp Speed. News of doses being given out of turn, or even worse, wasted, has dominated the headlines as facilities struggle to keep up with demand. While healthcare adapts to meet these new demands, there are best practices to effectively implement vaccine programs which you can read here.

Listen to the podcast: Best Practices for the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout.

In addition to these patient engagement practices, Matt Dickson, VP of Product, Strategy, and General Manager of Communication Solutions, has additional thoughts around patient activation and the challenges healthcare is facing right now. He was recently featured on The Healthcare Solutions Project podcast speaking about our recent efforts to help health systems quickly and efficiently implement vaccine scheduling, reminders, and FAQ hotlines.

In the podcast, Dickson says "Patient engagement is a thing we don't think about enough. If the patient isn't on board with the changes they need to make, then nothing good is going to come about. Patient engagement is the process of reaching out, and patient activation is the process of changing patient behavior to get a desired result."

Here are eight best practices for patient activation as you implement your COVID-19 vaccination programs:

Face Patient Vaccine Concerns Head On

Patients are likely searching on your social channels to find information about the COVID-19 vaccine. While health systems don't always have the staff or systems to police mentions and posts on social media, now is the time to do so. By posting and responding on social media, you can combat vaccine concerns and boost patient confidence.

Prepare Like an Event Planner

While government entities and health systems have previous experience running health and vaccine clinics, nothing has been done on this large of a scale. While the focus is on getting as many vaccines in arms as possible, you need to think about other logistical problems that might arise. For instance, what if someone's car breaks down in a drive thru vaccine clinic? How are you going to social distance when there are long wait times and patients need to use the restroom? Think through every element of your plan to ensure you have contingency plans.

Use Online Scheduling and Message Broadcast for Efficiency

Utilizing an automated solution will help your health system avoid overwhelming your current staff with questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. For example, a common question from patients might be, "when is it my turn to receive the vaccine." With an automated solution, your health system can be relieved of taking on the burden of answering these questions.

Limit Public Facing Vaccine Schedules or Phone Lines

Right now, health systems are mostly targeting vulnerable populations. Because of this, you need to limit public facing vaccine schedules and phone lines. If your health system shares a public scheduling link or phone line, patients in lower priority groups will begin to show up.

Provide FAQ Hotlines for Patients to Call

Have a strong communication and information program in place to share dose availability and other important details about the vaccine to help inform patients and help them make the right decisions for their health.

Reserve Vaccine Supplies for Walk-Ins

Some of our clients are currently allowing walk-ins for vulnerable populations. Make sure you have a thoughtful plan about the percentage of vaccines you will allocate to these walk-in appointments, and then set proper expectations.

Plan for Excess Vaccines If Appointments Are Missed

Don't let valuable vaccine doses go to waste. Have a plan to reallocate doses when patients miss their appointments. Either offer walk-in appointments or implement a system to quickly get wait listed patients into your facility.

Ensure Patients Get the Second Dose

To ensure patients get both doses of the vaccine, schedule both doses at the same time. Also, you need to have the appropriate solutions in place to remind, cancel, or reschedule appointments for those second doses in case there is a supply shortage, or the patient has a conflict.

We are all learning lessons as we go though the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. To meet the quickly changing needs of government, public health, and hospitals, we are continuously updating our award winning Intelligent Scheduling solution. In fact, we recently helped a large health system rapidly deploy 18,000 online vaccine appointments for scheduling across five facilities within seventy-two hours. Intelligent Scheduling, built on the InQuickerTM platform, has recently undergone the following updates to help organizations effectively schedule vaccines:

  • Custom registration templates—Allow custom fields to be defined and captured at the time of vaccine appointment registration, including creating new fields on the registration form without development effort.
  • Capture CDC required fields— Capture CDC required fields such as batch, site of injection, vaccine manufacturer, and more at the time the vaccine is administered, export the information as an AVE file, and use HL7 upload for state vaccine reporting.
  • Next available appointment—Allow patients to easily see the next available vaccine appointment, even if it's out in the future, as well as browse more schedules on search results at the health system, region, and facility level to help patients find appointments more easily. 

We will continue to meet the growing needs of our clients with meaningful product innovations, thought leadership, guidance, and best practices as we navigate this pandemic together. To listen to the full podcast mentioned above, click here.

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