COVID-19 vaccine distribution: 4 ways providers can win with online self-scheduling

Published: December 17, 2020 by Experian Health

It’s been almost an entire year since COVID-19 changed life as we know it. The good news? A vaccine has finally arrived and is currently making its way to distribution sites across the United States—a significant milestone as the nation has seen more than 16 million cases to date, and more that 300,000 deaths.

Because of the current supply, the Centers for Disease Control are recommending healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities receive the vaccine first. Supply is expected to increase in the weeks and months to come, however, and the goal is for everyone to have access to a vaccine by the second quarter of 2021.

As healthcare organizations across the country prepare to meet the vaccine demand, it is expected the logistics and distribution management will add pressure to staff and services already under stress. The challenge: administer the vaccine as efficiently and safely as possible.

Online patient scheduling has already been a game changer during the pandemic, but its potential as a traffic management tool to address the influx of vaccine appointment requests is even greater—and not just for patients. In the early stages of deployment, online self-scheduling can be a game changer for healthcare workers and other essential employees looking to schedule and receive the vaccine.

Here are four ways providers can leverage online patient self-scheduling for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine:

Designate day and time slots specifically for administering vaccines

By incorporating providers’ scheduling rules into the scheduling process, there is the opportunity to designate specific day and time slots for administering the vaccine.

It not only makes it easy for patients to schedule, but it additionally allows both patients and providers to further minimize the risk of unnecessary contact with others in the office.

Create screening questionnaires during patient scheduling

As more patients go on-site for the vaccine, they must be routed to the most appropriate care source and location. This will prevent unnecessary traffic and bottlenecks in the office, while ensuring the safety of individuals.

As soon as a patient begins to book a vaccine appointment a few short questions about their symptoms and reason for booking can be presented. A screening questionnaire like this can triage people wanting to get a vaccine or get tested, and help identify potential COVID-19 positive individuals, and if that individual needs to quarantine prior to coming in for the vaccine. After screening, the system can direct patients through the correct channel of care.

Screening questionnaires can also be used to determine if a patient is eligible for the vaccine given the current status of vaccine deployment. Older patients may be given priority whereas younger patients may be told to schedule at a later date.

A system like this can also reduce pressure on call center staff and give providers control over the volume and timing of in-person appointments, thus helping to reduce patient and staff exposure to any contagion.

Make it as easy as possible for patients to schedule both doses

Most of the early COVID-19 vaccines will require shots to be effective, with the second dose being administered 21 to 28 days after the first. It’s critical that the second does is administered in a timely manner. There are a few ways to encourage patients to return.

First, providers can help patients book their follow-up appointment in the office before leaving.

Second, providers can leverage automated outreach as a method to contact and remind patients to book a follow-up. Experian Health’s Patient Outreach Solutions have been purpose built to meet this need, sending outreach campaigns to individuals enabling them to self-schedule needed care conveniently, right from a text or voice message.

Automated outreach would allow providers to reach out to specific subsets of patients that may require or benefit from the vaccine early on, like older individuals or those with chronic conditions. With it, providers have the ability to reach out to hundreds, even thousands of patients without manual call center workload – something that will come in handy as now the majority of Americans plan to get vaccinated for the coronavirus.

Improve the efficiency of drive-through vaccination programs

For those providers considering drive-through vaccinations (similar to drive-through COVID testing), online scheduling makes a huge difference—not only for booking an appointment, but for preventing bottlenecks as patients arrive. Detailed information such as the patient’s vehicle model, color and license plate number can all be recorded ahead of time during the screening process, allowing providers to quickly identify patients as they arrive.

Learn more about the benefits of digital scheduling and how Experian Health can help your organization navigate the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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