Uncertainty swirls around exactly when a COVID vaccine will be available. But one thing is certain: The biggest mass vaccination event in modern history is on the way, with an unprecedented number of individuals receiving vaccination. To manage the surge of patients while keeping patients and staff safe (and sane), you must plan your COVID vaccination strategy well ahead of time.
A Three-Phase Framework for Your COVID Vaccine Strategy
To maximize a high-volume patient flow while maintaining social distance, you need a flexible strategy that can adjust to a variety of scenarios. As a framework for your COVID vaccine strategy, the CDC has outlined—for now, at least—three anticipated phases of vaccine administration:
In Phase 1, high-risk populations will receive a limited distribution of vaccine doses.
These populations are tentatively identified as:
- Healthcare workers
- Non-healthcare essential workers
- Adults at risk for severe COVID infections
- People aged 65 and up
In Phase 2, a large number of doses will be available to the general population (plus anyone from a high-risk population who wasn’t already vaccinated).
Phase 3 will see COVID vaccines widely available, and providers will begin to integrate them into their existing vaccination programs.
You’ll face specific challenges throughout each phase—scheduling and reminders, patient flow, and communication are just a few. Because of the many complex variables in play, technology will almost certainly be a part of your COVID vaccine strategy.
COVID Vaccine Appointment Reminders are Critical
If you are still scheduling appointments manually, now is the time to consider an automated appointment scheduling system. When patients can schedule vaccine appointments according to your customized variables and schedule, your staff is free to spend more time with the patients in front of them—and now, that requires more focus than ever.
But it’s not just the initial vaccine appointment that matters. Recently, the CDC has outlined two possible scenarios for what a vaccine might look like:
- Vaccine A: Two doses, 21 days apart
- Vaccine B: Two doses, one month apart
Either way, successful vaccination will likely require two appointments. If a patient fails to schedule a follow-up appointment (or is a no show), you must start the entire process over, wasting inventory, patient and provider time, and increasing your no-show rate and cost.
Second-dose appointment reminders will play a significant role in your COVID vaccine strategy. But many practices have difficulty finding the time to make even typical, non-COVID reminder calls. A scheduling system with an automated reminder feature reduces staff time spent on reminder calls, assures vaccine compliance, and ultimately, vaccine effectiveness.
Other best practices that ensure your COVID vaccine strategy begins with smoother scheduling:
- Schedule a patient’s second-dose appointment before they leave their first appointment.
- Take advantage of multiple reminder methods—appointment cards, email reminders, text messaging, and reminder
- When scheduling appointments and reminders, give patients clear, detailed information about what to expect when they arrive.
Avoid Overcrowding with Capacity Management
With the addition of a COVID vaccine workflow, managing patient flow in your facility will become even more complex—and critical. The new “Q-Anywhere” platform combines appointment scheduling and queue management platforms with virtual technologies that allow you to limit the number of patients in your facility without sacrificing their patient experience.
But just because your patients will enjoy the convenience of waiting in the location of their choice—their car, a coffee shop, outdoors—doesn’t mean you want to keep them waiting. You need frequent, consistent communication with patients that lets them know how you are handling their appointment, their place in the queue, when they will be called, what to do, and where to go when they are called in to your physical facility. Automated messaging, secured portals, and video chats help enable you to assure patients they are being treated promptly and fairly.
Vaccine Outreach and Communication
The additional communication required for your COVID vaccine workflow may take extra time, but it’s essential to get it right. Because every state, locality, and even facility may have different procedures in place—plus government guidance—your facility will have unique needs for communicating with patients and staff.
From COVID screening questions to a patient’s risk factors, your COVID vaccine workflow will change according to their answers. You need the ability to:
- Prioritize at-risk populations without alienating the rest of your patient population.
- Efficiently separate sick patients from others—ensure they know where to go prior to entering your facility.
- Add a COVID vaccination to a patients’ unrelated appointment, yet ensure it doesn’t negatively affect your patient flow.
Q-Anywhere allows you to choose your functionality according to many different variables, enabling you to get the right people in the right rooms, at the right time, and with the right equipment—all while maintaining social distancing.
Addressing the backlog of appointments patients have put off due to COVID, the coming flu season, and high demand for COVID vaccination could easily overwhelm even the most capable facilities and staff, if they’re not prepared. It doesn’t have to be that way, and Q-Anywhere can help. Learn how our new approach to patient scheduling, queuing, and workflow helped the NHS to maximize patient flow and improve care delivery during the “new normal” of COVID.