For the average Australian, the thought of patiently waiting in a line to get a needle put into your arm just to continue life with some sense of normality would have seemed an alien concept just a year ago.
Today, Australians aren’t just champing at the bit to get vaccinated against COVID-19, there’s active discussion within government and business about vaccination being a requirement for some occupations, as well as how best to prioritise who gets dosed first and where.
As challenges in the United States and United Kingdom have illustrated, the effective and timely inoculation of national populations is a task of Herculean scale.
Add to that the fact governments and healthcare providers are already some of the most complex and multifaceted organisations in existence. The sheer size and urgency of the challenge raises the obvious question of the best way to schedule, stock and track the progress of vaccination programs becomes plain.
The question senior clinicians, health system leaders and those delivering the vital digital health services and administration are necessarily asking is what is up to the task, available, interoperable and sufficiently scalable to work across Australia’s eight state and territory jurisdictions – and the federal sphere that runs Medicare?
States rise to the fore
As state health authorities make preparations to start mass vaccinations within weeks for frontline health workers and the most vulnerable, there is a need to find stable and reliable solutions that can enable the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations in Australia in an efficient and equitable way.
In late December 2020, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (previously known as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations) announced a global collaboration with software leader Salesforce to help manage critical information to help distribute two billion COVID-19 vaccines to 190 countries by the end of 2021.
Based on Salesforce’s already successful and proven Work.com for Vaccines, Experience Cloud and Nonprofit Cloud, the Gavi platform helps create a single source of truth for clinicians, health authorities and government for the complex task of managing vaccinations.
At the same time Salesforce has created a platform known as the Public Health Command Centre that provides a single dashboard for clinical and government leaders to make informed, data driven decisions based on vaccine needs and risk factors.
It also brings efficiency, transparency to the vaccination supply chain through the Work.com Vaccine Inventory Management module that harnesses robust inventory management and planning capabilities to maintain adequate quantities of doses, PPE stock, syringes, and other supplies.
Staying on schedule
While Australia may take some comfort in comparatively low infection and spread rates that allowed more time for vaccine testing and evaluation, when the time comes for the rollout it will be game-on across the country.
That means a mass scheduling tool to help book appointments, prioritise caseloads, the capture of consent and verification and certification of immunisation all come into play.
With eight state and territory jurisdictions administering their own health systems, the need for transparency and interoperability across frontline and administration systems is essential, especially when speed is of the essence.
In NSW, the state government is already openly discussing the possibility that workers in some industries and professions may need to be vaccinated as a pre-condition to them doing their jobs as a way to guard against COVID-19 infection and spread.
With other states likely to adopt similar measures, there’s a clear need for a system to quickly and accurately reflects immunisation status across borders that the community is aching to have reopened.
Fortunately, the Vaccination Appointment Scheduling facility in Work.com helps put that into action quickly and effectively.
Aside from the masses of data that need to be captured along Australia’s vaccination journey, a key element is maintaining the attention and trust of the public as well as prompting people into action – as health officials have been doing on a daily basis as they appeal for high testing rates.
With many vaccinations requiring two doses, that means clinical and government leaders need to find a way to reach people promptly to get the next dose happening quickly.
But it also means reaching out to the community to find pout how people found their vaccination experience to iron out bottlenecks and limit disruption, especially as people are trying to get back into work or care for their families.
It will also be important to monitor the health outcomes of vaccine recipients, especially as public trust increasingly relies upon transparency and confidence authorities have a good picture of what is happening.
Like other immunisation rollouts, there also has to be functionality to expedite restocking as well as swiftly managing recalls if needed.
Staff on the pointy end
At a workforce level, clinical practitioners will need to undertake specific training and accreditation to deliver Australia’s nation-wide vaccination program in the safest and most effective way.
While the need for training is logical, it still means that systems that accredit health professionals need to be able to take account of training outcomes, especially as many thousands of doctors and nurses will be brushing up on their skillsets.
It’s worth considering how and where accreditations will be recorded and the systems they will then need to feed into.
That’s especially the case in smaller states and regional and remote communities where health professionals will need to take vaccinations to places that may be serviced by the likes of the Royal Flying Doctor Service or visiting specialist health teams.
As has already been widely canvassed, older indigenous Australians living on country remain are among the most vulnerable communities when it comes to COVID-19, creating a need for timely yet sensitive vaccination programs.
Let’s hope by this time next year, we’ll finally be wishing good riddance to a wretched and deadly disease and considering how fast improvements made to Australia’s health system in the heat of a crisis can be extended to make the community stronger for the long term.