Q&A: Segmenting your patient population for the COVID-19 vaccine

Published: March 3, 2021 by Experian Health

While the various waves of vaccine priority may be largely defined, the ability for many providers to segment their patient populations based on those designations isn’t always simple. Without accurate data, there’s a risk that some vulnerable patients will be missed out.

We interviewed Mindy Pankoke, senior product manager at Experian Health, about the challenges in segmenting patient populations for the COVID vaccine and how providers can best overcome those challenges.

How does addressing patients’ barriers to care increase vaccination rates?

The early versions of this vaccination have two doses which comes with its own set of challenges. Getting a vaccination is one thing but getting people to follow up for a second dose in a certain time frame is another.

It’s the non-clinical factors that will prevent patients from getting the vaccine. So, things like inflexible work schedules, lack of transportation or even the access or comfort levels with technology required to schedule an appointment online can prevent patients from receiving or prioritizing the first and/or second dose.

It can be an uneven playing field with those patients that do not have more flexible schedules, a vehicle or even access to the proper technology to schedule and register for both doses. It’s much easier for patients to prioritize getting the vaccine when those non-clinical factors are a non-issue.

What challenges may providers face when trying to segment patient populations for vaccine administration?

There are a lot of gaps in patient demographics which can make it difficult for providers to accurately identify and segment patients. Think information like date of birth or occupation.

If providers want to segment by age, which many will likely do for the first wave of vaccinations, that would require a complete record of every patient with an accurate birth date. Providers may also want to segment by occupation, knowing essential workers are also eligible for the vaccine.

But how can you understand who is an essential worker? Especially when that definition may vary by state or local government?

Including non-clinical insights and enhancing demographic data as part of the patient record can help providers fill in the gaps and better segment patient populations for vaccine administration. By combining the power of Experian’s consumer demographic information with more than 40 years of experience compiling consumer data from self-reported and state license boards, Experian Health is able to drill down into occupation data to view different types of employment (construction, utility, etc.) for you to use to outreach, verify and streamline the scheduling (and automated scheduling) or the COVID vaccination.

What are some best practices to move from identifying at risk or priority populations and operationalizing that information into actually administering the vaccine to those groups?

This is really where it all comes together, and really where providers need to act fast. Once a group is identified, providers can automate the process as much as possible.

First, it is imperative that providers clean up their data. Recent processing of Experian’s Universal Identity Manager solution has identified 1,800 duplicate records in COVID vaccination registrations, for individual facilities. Providers can remove the duplicates, enhance the demographics where they may be out of date or missing, and put in place a proactive system to call out and prevent duplicates moving forward.

And the vaccine has a shelf life, correct? So even after segmenting the right patients, how can providers act fast to ensure it is administered?

So another best practice is to automate the scheduling for as many vaccination appointments possible. With a tool like Patient Schedule, providers can leverage the demographic data to programmatically push out a notification to a patient’s cell phone via IVR or text message, have them verify their eligibility based on the age or occupation data from Experian, and then allow the patient to book their appointment on the spot for a time that works best with their schedule. On the back end, the Patient Schedule solution syncs with the clinic or mobile vaccination site’s calendar to confirm the appointment, allowing staff the opportunity to tackle other pieces of the COVID vaccination strategy.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Providers will also want to risk stratify using social determinants of health insight on the individual level. Patients in every wave of vaccine priority present an opportunity for better patient engagement (68% of the US is impacted by at least one social determinant of health hindering them from accessing or prioritizing their care). Many patients will need help adhering to that second dose and knowing that information and those circumstances on the individual level can help providers engage in the best way possible to ensure the vaccine is administered correctly.

Interested in learning more about how Experian Health can help supercharge the COVID-19 vaccine management process?

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