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EHRs are vital for effective COVID-19 vaccine campaigns


To ensure a successful roll-out, providers should ensure their EHR supports the vaccination processes.

It is almost one year since the World Health Organization formally declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global health emergency. Since that time, millions of Americans have been infected with the virus, with over 450,000 tragically losing their lives. All the while, our nation’s healthcare providers have remained on the front lines, diagnosing and treating those who have contracted the virus, comforted their families, all while ensuring everyone else still has the access to normal care they need.

While this has been a challenging time, there have also been critical scientific discoveries made, as well as advances in technology – particularly around the speedy development of vaccines. Typically a 10-year process from discovery to public availability, some COVID-19 vaccines took just over two months from gene sequencing to the first human injection. The pace of bringing effective vaccines to market has been astonishing. But now, we are faced with the hurdles of distributing them quickly to the entire population.

Managing Complexity in the COVID-19 Vaccination Process

In the U.S., vaccinations began in mid-December for front-line healthcare workers. At the time of this publication, research shows more than 93 million shots have been given, with an average of just over 2.1 million doses being administered daily.

While actually administering the shot is straightforward, what takes place behind the scenes is far more complex and difficult to manage. In the United States alone, as many as 660 million doses of a vaccine could be needed for a two-dose regimen, according to some estimates. This means providers must keep track of which patients receive which manufacturer’s vaccine, keep track of any adverse reactions, and capture the demographics needed to report the patient’s vaccine eligibility group, all in addition to ensuring that they come back for their second dose. The urgency to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible has led to many patients not knowing where to go to get their vaccine, leaving many confused and frustrated.

While many federal organizations are leading the charge to get the vaccines in the hands of healthcare providers, the real work is being done on the local level. Health systems, family practices, and pharmacies play key roles. Despite the fast and furious pace to control the pandemic, they must ensure vaccinations are organized in an orderly fashion, and that all the various steps in the process are tracked.

The EHR Checklist for Managing Coronavirus Vaccinations

To efficiently and effectively roll out millions of COVID-19 vaccines, technology is key. EHRs played an essential role in the early days of the pandemic: guiding screening questions, providing travel and exposure guidance, supporting diagnostic testing, and providing access to the latest CDC recommendations. Now, the role of the EHR is even more vital, as this technology serves as the hub for documenting care; is viewed as a critical component to assist providers in staying organized; and ensures patients get the vaccines they need, when they need them.

Given their importance in the fight against COVID-19, providers must ensure their EHRs and related systems are ready to support multiple aspects of vaccination campaigns, from communication with patients to submitting information to vaccination registries.

To ensure a successful roll-out, providers should ensure their EHR supports the vaccination processes:

  • Interoperability capabilities should exist with vaccine registries, as well as with other EHRs to enable information-sharing among providers. The EHR needs to be able to collect and transmit all data elements required to comply with state and federal guidelines.
  • Analytics to track prioritization and doses given: Capitalize on your EHR's ability to identify when patients are eligible to receive the COVID vaccine. Administration, communication, and organization is essential for administering vaccines successfully. The tools should include the necessary vaccine codes and information about the Emergency Use Authorization information which must be provided to patients to explain benefits and risks.
  • Workflow recommendations for greater efficiency and effectiveness: For example, your EHR should provide you with options like scheduling of follow-up appointments so patients return within the needed timeframe to get their second dose. Your EHR should also easily display prior vaccination information to help ensure patients receive the correct vaccine when they return for the second dose.

By confirming your technology stack can handle these tasks now, healthcare providers, health systems, and pharmacists will be well prepared to administer future vaccinations, making the process easier for both staff and patients alike, while also supporting the overall national campaign in preventing COVID-19 infections. Our industry and nation must work together collaboratively to save the lives of millions; EHR technology provides us a great opportunity to succeed in this mission.

About the Author

As chief medical officer at Greenway Health, Dr. Michael Blackman brings an extensive background in health IT product management along with his knowledge of outpatient and inpatient care, and was an early leader in the development of electronic prescribing for controlled substances. He believes healthcare is a team sport that requires the talents of all contributors working together to succeed. Prior to joining Greenway, he was Medical Director for Population Health at Allscripts. Before that, he served as Chief Medical Officer for McKesson’s Enterprise Information Systems division.

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