5 strategic functions for a successful COVID-19 vaccine program

by Dr. Suman De

“Connected healthcare” is a big frontier for the digital experience of patients and providers. It’s a worldwide push for more patient-driven experiences—something that connects the often disparate dots between the multiple healthcare entities a single person interacts with. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has made this more crucial for public health agencies with a need to spot outbreaks and proactively manage them quickly. Unfortunately, most healthcare organizations are kept operating in silos with the least ability to do this in a precise way, whether it’s collecting data on exposure, testing, who’s being exposed and to whom, or deriving a complete view on the virus transmission chain.

The time is here again. Although a vaccine is not yet available, lessons learned from the isolated and non-integrated contact tracing and testing systems suggest that public health agencies may want to begin addressing the challenges of this mass vaccination program now. It will have multiple healthcare players involved, from government agencies, providers, and suppliers to administrative personnel, payers, employers, and pharmacies. Public health agencies can get ahead by restarting and re-introducing a more cohesive, digital journey for patients as a part of this new immunization program and beyond. 

Our previous article discussed six solution areas for a successful vaccine management program, including Citizen engagement, vaccine demand management, cold chain process, administration, clinical management, and data management. Now, we want to dig deeper and look at all of the different players involved in such an end-to-end solution—who does what when? To better understand this vaccination workflow, we’ve broken it down into five core functions: communicate, engage, manage, decide, and disseminate. Let’s dive in to understand better who’s on deck for which functions and how the Infosys Vaccination Management (IVM) solution can help. 

 

Communicate

Immunizing the population against COVID-19 will likely require the single most extensive vaccination campaign ever undertaken in the history of the nation’s public health, with broad participation by health and human services and allied government agencies, as well as private sector partners and the citizens themselves. This communication and campaign will cater to the most important function: to get all potential vaccine participants in the camp. Hence, the vaccine program has to have effective, tailored, and targeted communication to get the word out accordingly within the pro-and anti-vaccine communities and spread awareness to empower citizens and involved stakeholders with knowledge regarding the importance of COVID-19 immunization to stop and eventually help eradicate the virus. 

The Infosys Vaccine Management (IVM) solution is prepared to connect providers, health coaches, public health agency personals, with vaccine FAQs, policy guides, scientific information, and digital advisors with the end target audience: everyday citizens. Coupled with marketing awareness campaigns, purpose-driven messaging, social media advertisement, and wellness surveys, IVM can share valuable information on the fingertips about the pandemic in general and specific guidelines on how to get enrolled, vaccinated, and seek follow-up attention. IVM can also pull in specific policies and knowledge articles from CDC, WHO, and more to give administrators a better understanding of spreading vaccination awareness, removing hesitance or distrust, and promoting vaccine confidence within the target audience. 

 

Engage

After enough advocacy and messaging, citizens will seek out the vaccination from their healthcare providers. That’s why the next function is all about engaging with the target population and getting vaccination appointments on the books—demand management. 

Providers and Public health departments carry the brunt of responsibility for this function. They must handle registration, enrollment, eligibility screening, and appointment scheduling directly with the participants. There can be a lot of red tape, and if it’s not managed cohesively and simply by the provider, participants can easily drop off and lose interest. Maintaining engagement with a streamlined vaccination program like IVM is essential. 

 

Manage

The next functionality is crucial to ensure the program has the capacity for its management and continuity: taking all of that information gathered from the participants during engagement and putting it to use. This is where program administration and clinical management (for adverse events) come into play more heavily. Government leaders, epidemiologists, providers, vaccinators, stock and inventory managers, and supply chain watchdogs all interact with one another to keep the COVID-19 vaccine doses flowing seamlessly and safely.  This step involves making strategic decisions concerning vaccine allocation and prioritization in an effective and equitable manner, complying with the CDC guidelines and accounting for the local disease burden, virus reproducibility rate, citizen vulnerability index, and overall vaccine stock availability from the manufacturers.

The IVM solution is equipped with top-tier features to address the various concerns at this stage. Whether it’s vaccination workflow steps, including prioritization and allocation, check-in and screening, inventory update and process documentation, follow-ups, and adverse reaction risk management, IVM connects the various sources of information for an integrated, connected experience. This kind of connected automation and digital infrastructure will be critical for the COVID-19 vaccine administration, which is expected to be far more challenging than any existing vaccine program due to the sheer scope, size, and associated socio-political, clinical, operational, and regulatory challenges.

 

Decide

At this point, the patients and vaccinators have dropped out of the workflow, with their jobs done and needs met. Remaining are supply chain managers and program administrators who must rinse-and-repeat the process over and over. However, the goal is to keep the vaccine program going with increasing data-driven insights and more informed decision-making. 

Expert data management and an advanced analytics function are essential to establish a successful system of insights in the vaccine program. The program must be able to take the information from previous stages in the workflow, data inputs from disparate systems involved in COVID crisis management (testing, contact tracing, treatment, etc.), and the ever-changing data from the supply chain and deliver dynamic reports that provide administrative, epidemiological insights and regulatory compliance. This information not only helps the public health agencies and providers continue prime operational efficiency but also helps to gain additional strategic intel around early signs of waning immunity, changes in disease prevalence rate with the extent of vaccination coverage, contraindications of the vaccine for a specific population subset, groups and individuals at high risk of dropping out, safe vaccination vs. adverse health event reports, vaccine supply-demand, etc. All of that can help state, local, and territorial health departments and policymakers remain proactive and vigilant on this novel vaccination program’s outcome.

 

Disseminate

There is one more important function in the vaccine program: secure data exchange, dissemination of information. This is where all the data and reporting get dispersed to a variety of target systems (VAERS, VSD, State IIS, Immunization gateways), collaborated among the stakeholders (namely CDC, cross-jurisdiction agencies, providers), and leveraged across various message/data exchange formats, protocols, and technologies (HL7, FHIR, Soap, Blockchain, API library, etc.). It can be a lot. However, it’s not the data growth that’s the problem, as a recent Forbes article explained. It’s properly managing the diverse amount of data sources that tends to create problems. 

Since data is the new currency, the data this vaccine program will generate in the face of COVID-19 will be critical to several institutions and the organizations in the play. Ensuring the integrations and workflows are in place to securely and accurately share that information with the right people (and only the right people) will be critical to upholding the credibility of the COVID vaccine program. 

The COVID  vaccine program is an unprecedented public health challenge. And it will be at its best when it’s successfully performing all five of the above mentioned strategic functions. Delivering critical information requests at every stage of the vaccine process and making it cohesive and coordinated among every stakeholder is the sign of a true, end-to-end solution for this unique vaccination management program. Once approved by the FDA and the production is on roll, the vaccines must get delivered and administered to the population writ large. Hence, public health agencies can’t wait a moment longer to get started with theirs.

 

suman deDr. De is Infosys Public Services’ Head for Government Healthcare Solutions. In this capacity, he is responsible for the ideation and development of next-generation solutions for public health agencies. He has vast experience in the public health domain, and his previous work experience ranges from involvement with Govt. of India’s National pulse polio immunization program in collaboration with the World Health Organization and various other public health projects conducted by international organizations like UNICEF, Indian Public Health Association, etc. He has been recognized as a subject matter expert (SME) in healthcare for his contribution to the industry through thought leadership, points of view, articles, workshops, running webinars, and speaking sessions. Dr. De is a graduate in medicine from India and holds a Masters in Healthcare Administration from a premier business school in India. He is the recipient of several awards of excellence in recognition of his work for the healthcare industry.