New Jersey blames Microsoft for weeks of vaccine rollout glitches

Bloomberg reports that the software has blocked users, lost registrations, double-booked appointments and crashed for up to three days.
By Kat Jercich
12:38 PM
A person in scrubs and face mask administers the vaccine to a seated person.

The state of New Jersey has reportedly faced five weeks of glitches on its Microsoft-powered COVID-19 vaccine registration website, frequently forcing the state to rely on counties and hospitals to schedule would-be recipients.  

According to Bloomberg, the booking portal has required nearly daily fixes and led to temporary downtimes, leading state officials to fear what will happen when eligibility expands to broader swathes of New Jersey's population.

"The system itself has had issues, and we are directly speaking with Microsoft, who's the vendor, almost every day to work out those bugs," said Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli in a briefing this past week.   

"We are working with the State of New Jersey to deliver vaccinations as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible, and that includes addressing some technical issues," said a Microsoft representative to Healthcare IT News via email.

WHY IT MATTERS  

In January, Microsoft rolled out its Vaccination Management Platform, aimed at registering, scheduling and tracking COVID-19 vaccine supplies for providers and users. 

Some states, as reported by Bloomberg, have used the platform with overall favorable results. But officials told the outlet that New Jersey has yet to see the software work correctly. Although the site has booked thousands of appointments, it has also reportedly blocked users, lost registrations, double-booked appointments and crashed for up to three days.

Late this past month, local ABC affiliate WPVI reported that an error with the state's vaccine scheduling system led to hundreds of unexpected people showing up and other appointments canceled. Other people worried about their second dose, saying that they had yet to receive an email or a text with follow-up information.  

Microsoft, in a statement to HITN, said that each implementation is unique and includes adapting to changing circumstances.

The spokesperson said the team was continuing to learn as it goes through the processes and that it was incorporating the lessons as it moved forward.

THE LARGER TREND

States have faced varying hurdles with their vaccine rollout campaigns, relying on a wide range of IT systems in the absence of a cohesive federal strategy.

Many have left the enormous undertaking up to counties and health systems, which have turned to their electronic health record vendors or companies like Zocdoc to try and streamline the process.

Despite the hiccups, many hospital chief information officers say digital health technology has been instrumental for their COVID-19 response.  

"The use of digital technologies significantly improved the patient flow and experience, once at the vaccine clinic, and allowed us to easily gauge volume in real time, flexing the number of available appointments up and down to reflect vaccine availability simply by opening/closing more 'appointment slots' on the website to feed the schedule," said Mike Mistretta, CIO at Virginia Hospital Center, in January.  

ON THE RECORD  

"The registration appointment system, we've had real challenges with our vendor," said New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy at the briefing on February 10.

"That continues to be an ongoing challenge. It feels like it's two steps forward, one step back with the vendor," Murphy added.

 

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: kjercich@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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