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1,000 to 200 million: It’s time to scale vaccine management

Automated workflows are key to scaling vaccine rollouts.

1,000 to 200 million: It’s time to scale vaccine management

Organizations have to ensure that their systems don't become overwhelmed with attempts to get appointments.

Photo: Getty Images

Mike Luessi is the GM of Global Healthcare and Life Sciences Industry at ServiceNow.

Scaling technology is not a new challenge. Integrating technology stacks, breaking down information silos and eliminating outdated processes is difficult work. Often added to that are multiple organizations, jurisdictions and departments that have specific capabilities, systems and tools. Coordination and collaboration among multiple stakeholders can be daunting and may present difficulties when scaling new systems. And nowhere were the effects of scaling challenges felt more than with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine worldwide.

In the U.S., the vaccination rollout is moving along quicker than anticipated. But with the Biden administration doubling its original vaccination goal to 200 million in the first 100 days and expediting the eligibility deadline to April 19, organizations have had to ensure that their systems would not become overwhelmed with attempts to get appointments.

Many organizations have had to figure how to efficiently administer vaccines the hard way. No matter how many vaccines that organizations were administering — whether it was a university aiming to vaccinate faculty and students or a megasite working to vaccinate an entire community — they had to scale.

Like many other organizations, Children's Minnesota, a pediatric hospital system based in Minneapolis, faced early challenges with its vaccine rollout. When the hospital expanded its vaccination rollout beyond staff, lines of people waiting to get the vaccine wrapped around the building due to manual, paper-based processes. This is often referred to as the "last-mile challenge" of vaccine management. Governments, health care providers and other organizations worldwide have all felt the effects of this.

In the case of Children's Minnesota, they needed a system to make it easier to manage vaccine inventory and streamline the process for people to schedule vaccination appointments. In partnership with ServiceNow, they were able to introduce new vaccine management capabilities that helped reduce wait times from three hours in a walk-in model to 20 minutes with an appointment. This enabled them to successfully vaccinate nearly 1,400 staff members, caregivers and the community in the first 11 hours.

In Europe, many countries are still facing administration challenges, but using similar technology, NHS Scotland was able to digitize the entire vaccine administration process, and 220,000 people were able to schedule appointments in the first 12 hours.

None of this would be possible without an information systems foundation that eliminates silos, enables process workflows and facilitates rapid software development and deployment. Such a unified technology platform is fundamental for a digital-first enterprise. Indeed, this should be a core goal for every organization and a basic tenet of digital transformation.

More than that, establishing this foundation is now mission critical. A modern cloud-based platform enables companies to digitize and automate departmental and cross-enterprise workflows, optimize business processes for resiliency and mitigate risk. This leads to an acceleration of automation and facilitates embedding AI and analytics into applications. The outcome is an increase in speed, resiliency and scale.

Organizations with this in place have had a huge advantage making the needed changes to adapt during the pandemic by enabling them to quickly rewire affected operations. Those without retreated into survival mode. Indeed, the traditional, siloed systems that exist in many enterprises — connected in linear and transactional ways if connected at all — is not only challenged but likely soon to be an artifact of a bygone era.

Thanks to workflow automation, we have come a long way in rapidly scaling effective enterprise applications, overcoming information silos and disparate systems, and improving the customer experience. But now more than ever, modern systems are showing us how to scale up these systems to meet the demands of today's emergency and the opportunities of tomorrow. As we look toward the future of health care, workflow automation will become even more critical, connecting cross-functional teams and systems to streamline touchpoints between health care providers and patients and improve the delivery of care.

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