5 Steps to Streamline your Patient Journey for Mass COVID-19 Vaccinations

It will likely be several months before a COVID vaccine becomes widely available to the general public. But healthcare providers are already grappling with how to integrate mass vaccinations into their everyday workflows. Delay planning, and run the risk of missed doses, wasted time, and frustrated patients and staff.

By automating as many parts of the patient journey as possible, you can allot your face-to-face and phone time where it’s needed most, while preserving the personal touch that is a key part of the patient experience.

Organizations as diverse as hospitals, urgent care clinics, medical practices, retail pharmacies, and pop-up vaccination clinics will experience many of the same challenges regarding vaccine administration workflows:

  • Significant increase in patient outreach and communication
  • Creating an implementation plan when vaccine rollout is unpredictable
  • Careful tracking of doses and patient-follow up
  • Juggling the rises and falls in vaccine availability
  • Needing to manage staff working patterns
  • Considering the various accessibility requirements of people at the vaccines sites
  • Accommodating walk-in traffic along with scheduled appointments
  • Managing patient flow and capacity to facilitate social distancing
  • Identifying adverse events
  • And much more!

While some operational and logistical considerations of vaccine administration will differ depending on your facility type and patient populations, your patient journey should incorporate these five absolute must-haves for a successful vaccination workflow:

Must-Have #1: Online Appointment Scheduling

Statistics vary, but one thing is clear: patients increasingly prefer to schedule appointments online—and the ability to schedule online is an influencing factor in physician selection. Online scheduling is especially helpful in situations where you must schedule a high volume of patients for short, straightforward appointments (like the COVID vaccine). The underlying scheduling engine must allow patients to book both doses at once, whilst ensuring the staff, location, and vaccine availability is being checked in real-time, and automatically enforcing the necessary time gap between does.

The Q-Anywhere platform can be customized to suit your facility, locality, or state guidelines. For example, online scheduling can verify vaccine eligibility, allowing only those patients who meet the vaccination criteria to schedule appointments. For example, if your state begins by vaccinating only patients beyond a certain age, Q-Anywhere scheduling can include that parameter. Or, you could schedule high-risk patients in certain blocks, to minimize their contact with other patients.

On some occasions there may be a need to mass-schedule vaccines on behalf of the patients using a bulk upload model, and simply communicate their appointment details to them, rather than asking them to self-book. This could be for the first waves of the most vulnerable members of society. Having a scheduling engine that supports this model, as well as patient-led booking, is crucial to the success of your vaccine delivery. As an example, the Q-Anywhere platform will factor in the following variables when scheduling on behalf of patients:

  • Location - using geo co-ordinates to book the patient into their nearest vaccine site
  • Accessibility - matching all accessibility needs with vaccine sites e.g. wheelchair access
  • Vaccine type - using key health markers to book the needed vaccine type
  • Dose gap - automatically applying the necessary time gaps needed

Must-Have #2: Virtual Queue Management

When patients check in virtually, from their car or other location, it minimizes the risk of gathering in your lobby. Virtual queue management enables you to direct patients exactly where they need to go, and when. You can monitor and control patient flow and capacity, whether your facility has one vaccination location or many.

Upon virtual check-in, patients can answer screening questions, which could route them to a specific location, lane, or other waiting area. For example, you may be separating potentially sick patients (i.e. those who’ve been exposed to COVID in the past 14 days), or routing patients depending on whether they’re receiving their first vaccine dose or second.

Must-Have #3: Virtual Patient Rooms

Once a patient has checked in for their vaccination appointment, virtual waiting rooms allow them to wait anywhere—their car, a coffee shop, or a nearby park, for example. Regular notifications and updates on their place in the virtual queue ensures patients never feel forgotten or out of the loop. When it’s time for the patient’s appointment, they’re notified when and where to enter your facility, only when it’s safe to do so.

If appointments run behind, notifications and two-way communication allow patients to accept new wait times, or reschedule their appointments if necessary. They could also be routed to alternate locations, if appropriate.

Must-Have #4: Scheduling and Reminders for Second Doses

Perhaps the most important part of your COVID vaccine workflow is scheduling, confirming, and reminding patients of second-dose appointments. If patients miss their second dose, they won’t be fully vaccinated, and will likely have to start the process over. This wastes patient and provider time, not to mention vaccine doses which could be in short supply.

Automated scheduling and redundant, multi-modality reminders reduce your rate of no shows, while allowing patients to easily reschedule within certain parameters (say, another time slot on the same day, or within a certain window of days). By automating the reminder process, your staff is free to focus on patient care, rather than reminder calls.

Must-Have #5: Video Visits for Potential Side Effects 

Clinical trials show the current COVID vaccine(s) to be safe and effective. However, there is always the possibility of reactions or side effects. More importantly, providers may be under instruction to track and report any side effects, increasing your already heavy burden of administrative tasks.

With the Q-Anywhere platform, patients could receive automated, post-vaccine check-in calls, verifying the presence or absence of side effects, and prompting them to schedule either a telephone or video visit if the situation warrants. Data from telehealth visits allows you to easily identify any trends, no matter what provider conducts the visits.

The automated, cloud-based features of Q-Anywhere ensure staff and patient safety, plus mass vaccine workflow efficiency. Whether you are a traditional physician office, satellite clinic, or operating a pop-up or walk-through vaccine location, these five automated elements will assure a successful vaccination workflow.