National Immunization Awareness Month: How Technology Can Improve Future Vaccination Efforts

National Immunization Awareness Month this August offers an opportunity to examine how technology can bolster vaccination efforts and increase community immunity. With the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, this observance urges health systems and providers to consider how new applications can help distribute clear, uniform, and timely messages to the public, especially amid polarizing opinions regarding vaccines.

The recent pandemic highlighted the increasing complexity of social and political attitudes and their bearing on widespread vaccination efforts. A study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) revealed reluctance for various reasons across demographics, which presented a unique challenge for healthcare providers tasked with promoting understanding and adherence to vaccination plans.  

Many factors made their jobs increasingly difficult, including conflicting information, varying degrees of health literacy, cultural viewpoints, and access barriers. These challenges underscore the need for better communication methods to ensure clinicians deliver important vaccination messages to all communities.

Healthcare data and analytics advancements can help. To that end, Health Catalyst partnered with organizations during the pandemic to leverage data and analytics software to carry out urgent vaccination initiatives. These tools equipped healthcare providers with the means to quickly identify at-risk populations, optimize their outreach strategies, and effectively track vaccination rates. 

In today’s environment of varying rates of vaccine adoption, learning from how these organizations utilized augmented intelligence (AI) tools and healthcare data analytics solutions can offer valuable insights for enhancing vaccination efforts well into the future.

Identifying At-Risk Populations with Data Analytics Platform

By using data and analytics tools, healthcare organizations can identify at-risk populations requiring targeted vaccination. To comply with national UK guidelines for COVID-19 vaccinations and organizational goals, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust used the Health Catalyst® Data Operating System (DOS™) platform to create prioritized lists of patients. Using a subject area data mart and pertinent patient information, the organization could pinpoint specific groups requiring outreach.

Call center agents centralized key data to assess and assign callers to various groups and prioritize patients based on vaccination phases. The approach enabled the call center to reach patients over 80 years old and extend prioritization to other groups deemed vulnerable by the organization, such as frontline and support clinical staff. By utilizing the analytics and applications platform, healthcare providers could identify at-risk groups more promptly and customize their outreach efforts to aid the most susceptible patients.

Optimizing Outreach Strategies Using Patient Engagement Tool

Health organizations have experimented with various methods to reach individuals and overcome vaccine hesitancy using patients’ preferred communication channels. Recently, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providers used secure text-based messaging to communicate with patients and monitor their symptoms remotely. For that purpose, a healthcare system utilized the patient engagement platform Twistle by Health Catalyst to ensure consistent messaging regarding COVID-19 vaccinations.

As patients input data, Twistle automatically transferred it to their EHR to maintain a comprehensive and up-to-date record. The assessments were modified as the understanding of COVID-19 evolved, and the application notified care teams when patient data indicated deteriorating conditions.

Twistle’s ability to reach patients who lacked internet access, a computer, or WIFI, also enabled the organization to overcome health equity obstacles — to offer care and communication through innovative means.

The healthcare system achieved noteworthy outcomes using Twistle. They increased their care capacity, provided essential primary and preventive care for over 38,000 patients, and protected their workforce. Additionally, about 64 percent of patients acknowledged that Twistle minimized their need for provider phone contact, and nearly 96 percent embraced the technology, interacting with roughly 77 percent of all digital messages. 

Tracking Vaccination Rates Conveniently Through Data Platform

Data and analytics tools can also support vaccination tracking efforts. During COVID-19, Health Catalyst partnered with Allina Health to develop an efficient system for validating the immunization status of more than 28,000 employees, 6,000 affiliated physicians, and on-site contract workers. The task was complex, given that vaccinations occurred within and outside the organization, making it difficult to track all employees’ vaccination status and synchronize this data with hospital and clinic operations. 

To overcome these obstacles, Allina Health leveraged the Health Catalyst® Data Operating System (DOS™) platform and a comprehensive suite of analytics applications to track the immunization status of employees who received their COVID-19 vaccinations or were granted an accommodation. The data platform also incorporated vaccination data from the Minnesota Department of Health, providing Allina Health with a comprehensive repository of immunization records for its entire workforce. By doing so, they identified and resolved any possible gaps in vaccination rates, ensuring the uninterrupted provision of essential patient care. As a result, the organization reported $50,000 in indirect labor cost savings.

“Ready access to vaccination rate data allowed us to develop contingency plans to continue critical hospital and clinic operations.”

Dave Ingham, D.O., Vice President and Chief Health Information Officer of Allina Health

A Blueprint for Future Immunization Efforts

As the COVID-19 pandemic moves into the rearview, these use cases offer a blueprint for future immunization initiatives, particularly in navigating a tumultuous political landscape, addressing vaccine hesitancy, and guaranteeing access to high-quality care for vulnerable populations.

Indeed, National Immunization Awareness Month presents an opportunity to share best practices and integrate new remote monitoring and patient engagement technologies to improve health literacy and close the equity gap. Despite any obstacles that may arise, using robust data and health analytics can safeguard the health and well-being of communities. 

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