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Health care organizations, providers, vaccine manufacturers and community-based organizations (CBOs) are striving to deliver what we hope is the conduit to herd immunity from COVID-19. Johnson & Johnson is joining Pfizer and Moderna to increase the supply of vaccines, and workflow and resource changes will encourage citizen engagement initiatives. But as of late January, 43% of Black adults, 37% of Hispanic adults and 26% of White adults said they want to “wait and see” how the vaccine works for other people before getting it themselves. Differences in willingness to be vaccinated, however, don’t appear to be driving disparities in vaccination rates.
Other factors—such as crashing websites that prevent people from signing up and eligibility criteria that differ from state to state, or even from county to county—might play a role.
Even for those willing, the vaccine sign-up processes leaves many people facing barriers in many states and communities. Can organizations collaborate to improve the sign-up process? How can organizations promote the vaccine and close gaps in care? How can organizations assess workflow and technology barriers? Let’s explore these questions and try to find answers.
Work with CBOs
Consider collaborating with CBOs on community vaccination efforts and identifying social gaps. As trusted members of the community, CBOs are in a great position to educate the community about vaccinations, address common concerns and questions and raise awareness about vaccines’ benefits. Social services organizations, faith-based organizations, YMCAs/YWCAs, fraternities, school organizations (e.g., PTAs/PTOs), meal delivery services, senior centers and others might even help schedule and register patients for vaccinations, and act as a referral source to provider organizations.
Change operational workflows
Long wait times at vaccination sites have been a source of frustration. Patient navigators or representatives can help triage patients who arrive too early or who are missing information such as insurance or proof of eligibility. Navigators can also ask patients if they are having other problems or issues, to identify clinical and social gaps not related to the vaccination. Select vaccination sites have chosen to use simple means such as colored stickers to identify first vs. second dose users. Also, leveraging the vaccine touch point to ask patients if they are experiencing other social problems or issues as a method of identifying non-vaccine-related social and clinical gaps.
Let technology help
Consider tools and data from referral management platforms to prioritize vaccine patient engagement and promote services to patients with social gaps. The same tools that work as general appointment reminders—Interactive Voice Response (IVR), portal notifications and call or text messages—can be used to reach out to these vaccine-eligible individuals. Remote patient monitoring might also be an opportunity to engage patients in vaccination efforts and discuss care plan goals at the same time. Community-based care and SDOH referral management platforms can link patients with CBOs that are facilitating vaccination efforts through help with scheduling and registration.
Track gaps in care, vaccination adherence and high-risk socioeconomic populations
With the COVID-19 vaccination program requirement to report immunization information, organizations can use data to link to claims, EHRs, self-reported data or HEDIS measure results. Targeting vulnerable ZIP codes is common practice among sites that seek to engage a community. Stratifying data to consider and prioritize utilization and close clinical and social gaps is another step toward meeting quality and health equity objectives.
Engage vaccine manufacturers and payers
Pharmaceutical companies are significant stakeholders in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Discuss opportunities to collaborate through payer or pharmaceutical engagement—these can include change management tools, educational and wellness programs, health IT resources and patient reminder tools.
These are pivotal times in health care. Emerging solutions are evolving, thanks to advancements in technology and a global crisis. It’s time to leverage tools and resources to advance COVID-19 vaccination efforts while addressing clinical and social gaps.
1. What strategies has your organization implemented to improve patient and community access to COVID-19 vaccines?
2. How has your organization modified stratification tools, technology and resources to advance vaccination efforts while promoting quality improvement?
3. What clinical or operational challenges should health care stakeholders consider when integrating quality and patient engagement into vaccination efforts?
Vanessa Guzman,CEO,SmartRise Health
Vanessa Guzman is an expert in population health strategies, including patient and physician engagement strategies, clinical reporting, health IT and quality management models, and CEO at SmartRise Health. With almost 15 years of industry experience, she works closely with health systems, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), technology, and SDOH partners to collaborate in implementing data-driven tools, clinical infrastructures, and community partnerships to promote wellness and improve patient health outcomes.
Vanessa served as the Associate Vice President at the Montefiore Health System, a top-performing ACO in the country, overseeing physician partnerships, population health and quality improvement, and health information technology.