Popup Covid-19 vaccination sites in convention centers, shopping malls and stadiums are relying on digital enterprise technology to handle a looming upswing in inoculations, as more Americans become eligible to receive a shot, healthcare groups and information-technology leaders say.
Among the critical tools are cloud computing and cloud-based management software platforms, along with reliable networks and connectivity to readily access patients’ appointment data, run identity, eligibility and same-day health checks, and maintain inoculation records.
These and other digital capabilities need to function seamlessly between makeshift workstations—where arriving patients are checked in—and tablets, laptops and printers throughout the facility.
“It’s really networks at scale,” says Jim Sullivan, chief executive of software firm NWN Corp., whose cloud communications, contact center and systems management software is being used by multiple mass vaccination sites throughout the U.S.
Mr. Sullivan says everything at these facilities runs on a large network—provided by the facility or through local telecommunications services—and it needs to be secure and scalable. Drawing computer power and capacity from the cloud, rather than a hospital’s own data center, provides the elasticity needed to quickly expand operations, he says.
“You’re mobilizing a whole set of systems that need to be working,” Mr. Sullivan said.
What keeps the lines moving at sprawling vaccination megasites is enterprise IT, says Dr. James Cardon, chief clinical integration officer at Hartford HealthCare Corp., a Connecticut-based network of hospitals, clinics and other medical services.
Hartford operates seven mass vaccination sites across the state. Its largest is located inside the 140,000 square-foot Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, which the healthcare group opened in late December.
Dr. Cardon defines a vaccination megasite as a facility with no fewer than 10 vaccination stations capable of administering roughly 1,000 doses each day, though many of Hartford’s sites have already surpassed that volume, he said.
Hartford estimated the required scale of operations last year, based on population size and the expected phases of vaccination rollouts. “We have overbuilt capacity,” allowing for room to grow, Dr. Cardon said. His goal for each site is to get shots into people’s arms within a week of receiving a shipment of vaccine doses. “The partnership with IT is absolutely crucial,” he said.
In areas that lacked reliable internet coverage, the group’s IT team set up a connectivity hub using a cellular router, a strategy developed to operate a van used for offering mammograms to residents in lower-income neighborhoods, said Steve Kosciuk, Hartford’s network engineer. He calls the strategy “network-in-a-box.”
To speed up the process outside of the vaccination sites, Hartford last week began notifying eligible patients by text and email whenever vaccination appointments become available, avoiding the often frustrating process of scheduling their own appointments online.
President Biden has called on states to make all adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1. The U.S. has already surpassed 100 million vaccinations, hitting a pace in mid-March of over 2 million doses a day.
The White House this month announced plans this month to secure an additional 100 million shots of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine and has contracts to provide 600 million doses of the
Shafiq Rab, chief digital officer and chief information officer at Burlington, Mass.-based healthcare group Wellforce Inc., says some of the glitches at megasites—including scheduling errors and lost data—are the result of aging, monolithic healthcare technology that doesn’t work well with outside systems.
Mr. Rab, a former tech adviser to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said limited access to a patient’s full medical history—often locked up in these older systems—can raise the risk of vaccinating people with underlying conditions, such as allergies or heart conditions.
“With the onset of the pandemic, many public health officials quickly found out that the basic IT infrastructure they needed wasn’t there, or didn’t have the capacity to handle the volume they expected,” Mr. Rab said.
Enterprise software maker
own vaccine administration-management tool, developed within the past five months, is being used by vaccination sites poised to deliver more than 20 million inoculations world-wide, said Mike Luessi, its general manager of healthcare and life sciences industry.
“It’s the greatest workflow challenge of our lifetime,” said Mr. Luessi. “But whether it’s in the four walls of a hospital or a stadium, it’s the same process,” he said.
Write to Angus Loten at [email protected]
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