The GetWellNetwork tool offers a method to relieve overburdened workers and boost compliance rates among vaccine recipients.
In the complex process of COVID-19 vaccination deployment, communication with vaccine prospects and recipients is paramount at a time when hospitals and health systems are already overburdened. Essential touchpoints include scheduling appointments, offering a mechanism to report side effects, providing education, and ensuring adherence to second dose deadlines.
LifeBridge Health is accomplishing all of these activities and more through a digital patient engagement technology developed by GetWellNetwork. According to the Bethesda, Maryland-based company, its COVID Vaccine Loop was specifically designed to support distribution, education, and guidance for COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer/BioNTech, SE and Moderna. All patient communications are delivered through an app, which is downloadable to a phone, smartwatch, or computer.
LifeBridge, a five-hospital health system based in Baltimore, was involved in development of the innovation, says Daniel Durand, MD, chief innovation officer and chair of radiology. The COVID Vaccine Loop is an extension of GetWellNetwork's digital care plans already used throughout the enterprise.
Durand says the tool will be a key enabler in helping the health system achieve a hoped for 100% compliance rate to deliver two doses of medication to perhaps 100,000 people.
Technology Automates Vaccine Communications Processes
The LifeBridge approach to vaccine distribution involves a joint effort between pharmacy, employee health, operations, pharmacy, innovation, and IT, says Durand.
Before deploying the technology, the team developed a workflow and process to book inoculation appointments online. Initially, only employees and a few high-risk patients are eligible for the vaccine.
As each person registers, they are assigned a priority based on their role at the health system. ICU nurses, for example, receive the highest priority. The health system's ethics committee "is deeply engaged in deciding the order in which folks should be vaccinated by role," says Durand.
Once someone registers, they receive a link on their cell phone or via email to sign up for the app. If they previously received services at LifeBridge, they may already have the tool, which delivers secure communications via text messaging. A smartphone is not necessary, he says. The technology also works on a flip phone, as long as the device offers browser capabilities.
Among the functions the app provides:
- Scheduling vaccination appointments
- Education: "If they want to learn more about the vaccine or more about side effects, there is content they can engage with," says Durand.
- The ability to report side effects: "It they report a side effect that's a mild one, it just gets recorded," says Durand. "If it's a major one, it then connects them to [the LifeBridge] virtual hospital." By reporting symptoms, the app plays a role in remote monitoring.
- Reminders to engage in protective measures. Between doses, the app issues reminders that the vaccine recipient is not yet immune to the virus.
- Second dose reminders. "This is a very important intervention because it will continually remind that person on their digital device—which people hold near and dear— that they need to get their second vaccine to be protected," says Durand. In medicine, it usually takes between four to six interventions to achieve a 95%-plus adherence rate, he says.
Crossing the Digital Divide
"Like many digital tools in medicine [the COVID Vaccine Loop] is not something that solves a problem all by itself," says Durand. "It's an excellent tool … but you have to understand it in the context of being one of several interventions that we will have to make sure we get the highest compliance and adherence possible." That will include other outreach measures by the health system, including calls, if warranted, particularly to populations who do not have access to devices or are not proficient users.
Based on experiences with other facets of the GetWellNetwork technology, which LifeBridge uses for a variety of processes—including to ensure compliance with post-discharge instructions to prevent readmissions—the tool is effective, according to Durand. The health system is in the process of publishing a report that documents its success with this technology.
"Don't let pre-existing biases about who uses information technology prevent you from at least test-driving mobile phone engagement solutions," says Durand. "We've been surprised and impressed at how well they work in populations that are thought to be on the other side of the digital divide, whether it's an age gap or whether it's a socioeconomic gap. We find them to be very effective."
“Don't let pre-existing biases about who uses information technology prevent you from at least test- driving mobile phone engagement solutions.”
Daniel Durand, MD, chief innovation officer, LifeBridge
Mandy Roth is the innovations editor at HealthLeaders.
The app works on flip phones, smartphones, and computers.
The technology automates scheduling, education, side effect reporting and issues reminders about the need for a second dose and continuing to engage in protective measures.
In other uses, LifeBridge has found the technology effective in crossing the digital divide.