This content recaps an article published on the May 2021 issue Canadian Healthcare Technology, read the original article: Canadians have deployed a variety of systems to track COVID vaccination data
Canada’s COVID-19 immunization strategy consists of vaccinating as efficiently as possible. However, that's easier said than done considering the complexity of managing supply chains, administering multiple doses of a vaccine, and prioritizing specific demographics based on eligibility criteria. Mimicking the acceleration of tech adoption in other industries, digital health solutions have rapidly evolved to facilitate key aspects of the campaign. Features like e-booking, eligibility forms, mass scheduling, and appointment reminders and follow ups, have become an essential part of a successful immunization campaign.
One noteworthy success story of Canadian technology and innovation supporting healthcare workers to address these immediate and unprecedented needs is the partnership between Newfoundland and Labrador and Pomelo Health.
Inspired by Nova Scotia’s ambitious campaign to increase flu vaccine administration to 85% of its population, Newfoundland set the same objective in October 2020. The province anticipated hundreds of thousands of vaccinations being carried out in public health sites. However, those sites “didn’t have the administrative capacity to book and oversee a campaign of that magnitude, so they looked at an electronic solution,” recalled Fred Melindy, director of eDOCSNL at Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information (NLCHI). It was clear there was a need for the province’s four regional departments’ efforts to be coordinated in one place.
That's why the province chose Pomelo Health - to alleviate the administrative challenges of a campaign of such magnitude.
Prior to rolling out Pomelo software across Newfoundland, there was a lack of a focused & unified public-facing solution for patient booking. NLCHI eHealth program director, Cindy Clark, described how some areas of the province with limited access to Wi-Fi and cellular networks were relying on “pen and paper with a calculator alongside” to tally flu clinic data.
The success of the flu immunization campaign was almost instantaneous. In the first week after implementation, 40,000 online bookings were made in over 127 locations.
After the success of the flu clinic campaign, adapting the Pomelo solution for COVID-19 immunization was a no-brainer. The flu shot initiative served as a sort of pilot, or proof of concept, for the more challenging and complex COVID-19 vaccination campaign ahead.
As with the flu shot campaign, each of the regional authorities is using the Pomelo Health e-booking platform, and the software is customized based on where they are in the provincial rollout strategy.
When people access COVID-19 appointment scheduling through a designated link, they are presented with appointment types and availability. Once they’ve selected their preferred appointment, Pomelo triggers reminders to confirm their presence, and all this information is passed on from Pomelo Health to the EMR. For maximum flexibility and ease of use, healthcare authorities are able to also coordinate appointments through Pomelo when people arrive at the site, or when they call in.
A key success factor of the implementation of Pomelo Health’s software in Newfoundland was the ability to recognize and adapt to local needs. In Newfoundland, geography can create physical barriers to healthcare access. Large, sparsely populated areas with limited connectivity and transportation options are common, and can complicate the coordination of an immunization campaign.
Pomelo’s capacity to enable online appointment booking relieved pressure on staff, often strapped for resources, who can now focus on other needs. Additionally, features such as family, caretaker, and call-in appointments gave more flexibility in accessing healthcare to many Newfoundland residents.
Using Pomelo Health, along with other new technologies to improve visibility on capacity and workload across clinics allowed for a much better use of resources. According to Newfoundland’s eHealth program director, “Going this route really streamlined the province despite our geographic and regional differences”. Furthermore, “Having one provincial solution helped bring everyone together, using the same process with the same tools, and actually generating the same type of data and reports. That is a big bonus.” This resulted in a more efficiently rolled out immunization campaign than the province had ever had the capacity to do.