How patient engagement tools can help ensure 2nd COVID-19 vaccine doses
The COVID-19 vaccines certainly aren't the first inoculations to require multiple doses to achieve maximum efficacy. Patients trying to receive full protection against shingles, human papillomavirus and other illnesses also need to get at least two jabs. A recent survey suggests individuals aren't the best at getting them.
A poll released this past month from DrFirst found that 43% of respondents said they had received a vaccine in the past requiring multiple doses. But 13% said they did not get the second dose, or weren't sure if they did so. Residents cited numerous reasons for missing the follow-up dose, including failing to receive a reminder from their provider, not realizing they needed additional doses, missing the appointment, or just plain forgetting.
DrFirst, which provides technology solutions for healthcare organizations, notes that the gaps illustrated in the survey could lead to diminished effectiveness in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
Studies have shown that the second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines provoke a strong immune reaction, and the efficacy of the vaccines at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 after a single dose is not known.
“It’s critical that people get all required doses of multi-dose vaccines, or they won’t work at full effectiveness," said Dr. Colin Banas, chief medical officer for DrFirst, in a statement. "I can’t overstate how important this is right now to help bring an end to the devastating COVID-19 pandemic."
"Healthcare providers need to understand how easy it is for people to miss these follow-up shots and what kind of reminders work best for patients, especially since so many patients say patient portals aren’t the answer," Banas said.
Industry leaders have pointed to the potential for patient engagement tools to assist in speeding the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, particularly where initial outreach is involved. But DrFirst and others note that tools could also be of use in terms of ensuring patients get the crucial second dose.
"In an ideal world, we would have enough doctors and nurses to spend enough time with patients to give enough contextual information, delivered at the health literacy level that they're able to receive, in the language they're best able to receive it," said Jeff Fallon, chairman and CEO at eVideon Healthcare, in an interview with Healthcare IT News.
At this point, "our delivery model doesn't really allow for that." said Fallon.
In lieu of such a framework, "technology, especially these smart devices in patients' hands, is clearly the best way people are receiving information," he said.
Especially given how much money the government and health systems are spending on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Fallon said, it's worth investing in tools aimed at promoting health literacy – including the importance of getting a second shot, and where they can do so.
"Ensuring folks get the second dose is going to be really, really important," said Fallon.
Fortunately, organizations have a wide range of options to try and ensure that patients have all the information they might need about their second dose.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control offers a free text messaging system, called VaxTest, that providers can use to remind patients to get a second dose. Some electronic health record vendors will also follow up with patients via existing portal technology.
Recently, WELL Health Inc. teamed up with Twilio to help providers securely communicate with individuals, including about their second COVID-19 dose. Notably, WELL says it supports messaging in 19 languages – which is particularly important given the higher risk immigrants face from the disease.
"Healthcare providers are under tremendous pressure to efficiently and securely communicate with patients throughout this pandemic, especially as many providers coordinate COVID-19 vaccine communication and schedule vaccine appointments at unprecedented numbers,” said Guillaume de Zwirek, WELL CEO and founder.