The Year Ahead: Preparing For Widespread COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment
By Stefan Behrens, co-founder and CEO, GYANT.
The past year presented a number of unprecedented challenges for hospitals and health systems. The COVID-19 pandemic placed significant strain on providers, causing a demand for care that their systems were simply not built to handle.
Thankfully, we live in an age of digital health technology, with an array of innovative tools ready to meet multiple hospital needs during this time. Seamlessly deployed across the board, digital health solutions helped ease the burden on hospital resources, providing much needed relief for frontline workers and systems struggling with strained resources.
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the U.S. with vaccines rapidly coming to market, the single biggest challenge in 2021 will be managing the demand, deployment and administrative requirements of the vaccine.
With COVID-fatigue plaguing the nation, individuals everywhere are anxiously monitoring vaccine availability in hopes that they bring us one step closer to ending this pandemic. Now approved by the FDA, COVID-19 vaccines will be in high demand across the country. What’s more, patients are going to have questions – what is the distribution plan in my area? Am I eligible? Where and how do I receive vaccination?
The COVID-19 vaccine will be available in a phased approach, with priority populations varying state-by-state, and in some cases by zip code. It is expected that, in most states, frontline workers and the most vulnerable populations will be first to receive immunization. Considering the approval, providers need to be prepared with digital tools and infrastructure to manage the huge onslaught of patient inquiries and vaccine demand along with ongoing support for booster, side effects, and follow-up interactions.
Virtual Assistants for Vaccine Distribution
Technology can provide that infrastructure, helping providers avoid becoming overwhelmed by the demand while also ensuring a safe and seamless experience for patients, which in turn will help accelerate widespread immunity protection.
Virtual assistants in particular are poised to streamline vaccine information and deployment significantly. These tools help manage the entire patient journey for vaccination, all while relieving administrative burdens for hospital staff. For example, rather than having to call her doctor’s office only to wait on an hour-plus hold due to a high volume of calls, a 60-year old, high-risk patient can go to her provider’s website and access a 24/7 AI assistant that determines her eligibility and books an appointment for her first dose. This same virtual assistant will also follow up with said patient, helping monitor for side effects and schedule additional doses to ensure she completes her immunization journey safely and efficiently.
However, even while this patient completes her vaccination schedule, a tsunami of inquiries from other patients not yet eligible will be incoming and requiring data storage, queuing, and eventual SMS outbound scheduling and communication protocols. AI assistants securely collect these patients’ demographics to monitor deployment phases and alert them when they are eligible to book their vaccine appointment.
Innovate to Immunize
As providers urgently need to execute their COVID-19 vaccine deployment plans, digital technology is prepared to shoulder the demand and streamline the process for both patients and providers. By mapping deployment now, remaining nimble, and being ready to adjust strategies as vaccine approvals and production increase, they will be well prepared to meet their community’s expectations and needs.
Advancements in digital health innovation are making it possible for providers to continue delivering patient-centric care, manage vaccine demand, and all the while build trust and loyalty with patients during this unprecedented era of care.