States rely on wide range of IT systems to manage COVID-19 vaccines

Left to their own devices by the federal government, states are embracing an array of often ad hoc approaches to meet demand, manage allocation and schedule appointments.
By Kat Jercich
09:45 AM
People lining up for vaccines

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In lieu of a federal vaccine management system – at least for now – states have turned to their own technology for allocating and tracking the COVID-19 vaccine.

As states begin to expand eligibility beyond healthcare providers alone, local officials are relying on a wide variety of tools to help manage the demand.   

Given the logistical issues associated with the vaccines, in conjunction with the recent announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that states already lagging behind will be penalized with fewer doses, it's more important than ever for allocation to be as seamless as possible.  

Healthcare IT News spoke to health department representatives from dozens of states to learn how they're leveraging tools to respond to the vaccination needs of their residents – and how they anticipate using that IT going forward.  

Most of the states take a hybrid approach, using a dashboard to direct would-be patients to the appropriate provider.   

In South Dakota, for instance – which currently has one of the highest vaccine uptake rates in the country – individuals can use the interactive map to contact the county-appropriate provider. Those providers, in turn, are using a wide variety of ways to sign people up for the vaccine, including SurveyMonkey forms and hotlines.   

"As you know, SD is one of the top states leading the nation in vaccination efforts, and we consider our efficiency and transparency a big part of this," said a spokesperson for the South Dakota Department of Health.

The state also notes that the CDC's vaccine locator, vaccinefinder.org, will be updated with providers once the COVID-19 vaccine is more widely available.

Similarly, Michigan is directing residents 65 or older to local health departments via a state dashboard. These departments and affiliated providers are using tools such as Alchemer surveys or electronic health record portals to sign individuals up.  

When it comes to tracking, a Michigan health department spokesperson said, "All doses of vaccine are reported to the Michigan Care Improvement Registry. We also track all vaccine inventories within this system."  

In Arkansas, residents can use a map to be directed to community-based pharmacies that are allocating the vaccine to those who qualify.

"The Arkansas Department of Health is coordinating allocations of the vaccine and providers around the state schedule vaccinations. The information is then entered by providers into our immunizations database," said a spokesperson.  

And in Colorado, the state is supporting public health agencies, providers and pharmacies to "distribute the vaccine as equitably and efficiently as possible," said a spokesperson. This includes, the spokesperson continued, supporting them in setting up online sign-up opportunities and ensuring links to those are available on the state website.   

"Providers are required to enter all administered vaccines into the Colorado Immunization Information System within 72 hours of vaccine administration. The secure site includes basic identification of everyone who has received a vaccine," said the spokesperson. "Authorized individuals can access immunization information in CIIS only for clinical (including data entry), quality assurance, public health, or school entry law purposes."  

Other states using a dashboard model to connect individuals with local health departments or providers are Arizona, Tennessee, California, Utah and North Carolina.  

Some states, meanwhile, are offering wider-ranging scheduling systems or are planning to do so as vaccinations ramp up.   

People in Indiana over the age of 70 who are healthcare workers or who are first responders can sign up through a scheduling app through the state's website.  

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare representatives directed Healthcare IT News to the state's Immunization Reminder Information System, which will "track, forecast, and help remind patients when immunizations are needed."

In Mississippi, patients older than 65 or who have underlying medical conditions can use an online signup system.  

And a spokesperson for the Vermont department of health said that the state is in the process of "setting up a registration system to get people registered for appointments."

"We will have more about this when the system is up and running and when we are ready to start providing vaccines to people in the first age grouping of our next phase," said the spokesperson.  

Still other states did not appear to have IT infrastructure in place on a statewide level to allow individuals to register for the vaccine, although some note they have tracking systems to send data to the federal government once individuals are vaccinated.

Alabama, for example, is relying on a vaccine-scheduling phone hotline and using a Statewide ImmPRINT Registry for providers to report to the government. In Florida, some county health departments infamously turned to Eventbrite to help manage the demand. In Washington, the state has allocated doses to providers, who schedule their own clinics or appointments.

And a Kentucky spokesperson said that the state health department does not have a "framework for scheduling." 

"The Kentucky Department for Public Health does not have a framework for scheduling. KDPH has a framework for allocations and utilizes a collaborative approach, which integrates feedback and input from internal and external stakeholders along with community partners," said the spokesperson. 

Regardless of the means, experts caution that the states especially vulnerable to COVID-19 are already falling behind when it comes to getting vaccines into arms.

A report this week from Surgo Ventures found that the states it rates as being most potentially affected by negative consequences of a COVID-19 outbreak have been slower to administer their doses.  

"If these vaccination trends continue, it will spell trouble for our most vulnerable communities, which need extra support due to their susceptibility to a range of health-related, socioeconomic, and structural problems," said Dr. Sema Sgaier, Surgo Ventures cofounder and CEO, in a statement. 
 

 

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.

Twitter: @kjercich
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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