Connecting Communities for Quicker Pandemic Planning and Vaccinations
Community hospitals quickly vaccinate staff using extended EHR
While some 50 percent or so of Americans are still planning, or considering whether, to get vaccinated, Jefferson Healthcare in Port Townsend, Washington announced its end to mass vaccinations last week. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Covid Data Tracker, Jefferson County had 68% of its residents fully vaccinated as of May 22, 2021, the highest rate of fully vaccinated residents in Washington State. This effort was made possible by the quick and efficient distribution and tracking of COVID-19 vaccines administered by Jefferson Healthcare beginning in December 2020 and the support of its community partners like Community Technologies.
Electronic Health Records (EHR)’ detailed patient data and existing outreach capabilities made EHRs a valuable tool for identifying and connecting with eligible patients, scheduling multi-dose vaccines, and coordinating overall administration. Providence, the third-largest health system in the country, shared its EHR with partner organizations to facilitate an efficient, coordinated vaccination effort in the regions they serve through its partnership with Community Technologies. Established by Providence, Community Technologies extends its services to independent hospitals and clinics, expanding its access to Providence’s Epic Community Connect EHR technology.
Providence already shared its Epic system with 75 organizations at the start of 2020, and when the pandemic hit, Providence started sending daily updates to update the organizations on changes to support their COVID-19 responses. To further support these sites, Providence established a process to identify and prioritize COVID-19-related changes to the system, such as support for new inpatient units, ED triage tents, and drive-through testing sites. For example, at the onset of the pandemic in March and April 2020, Providence created more than 45 new departments in the system to support increased telehealth demand. The support process they already established is setting up existing Connect sites for vaccinations. These efforts during the pandemic early on gave Jefferson Healthcare a successful path to become the first in the state to also end its mass vaccinations through its drive-through clinic to continue its focus on longer-term medical needs.
Jefferson Healthcare vaccinated 1,150 staff during the first wave of vaccinations, leading the way on COVID-19 vaccinations in the county. The hospital worked closely with its public health department throughout the pandemic. The partnership allowed the two entities to effectively leverage open, consistent communication during crisis management, including information sharing on evolving guidelines, state recommendations, and available resources.
Using the knowledge gained from this partnership in addition to the hospital’s mass flu vaccinations last autumn, Jefferson established the COVID-19 vaccination clinic for staff and its drive-through clinic. Jefferson’s clinical informatics team has done extensive data analysis to ensure vaccinations are allocated according to patient priority and availability. When Jefferson learned that they’d be getting more doses than initially planned for, they were able to quickly pivot and get more people vaccinated.
“From scheduling the patient’s doses to reporting to the state immunization registry, it’s all electronic, which makes a huge difference when it comes to vaccinating a ton of people in a short amount of time,” said Joshua Brocklesby, Jefferson’s clinical informatics supervisor.
In addition to partnering on vaccinations, Jefferson and its public health department worked together on contact tracing, another key component of the pandemic response. The interoperability of the shared EHR proved to be incredibly valuable in contact tracing patients who are seen at multiple hospitals, sharing medical information with care teams in other facilities, and monitoring the progress of patients who are transferred to or in a tertiary care setting.
Nor-Lea Hospital in Lovington, New Mexico used their electronic schedule to coordinate nearly 550 vaccinations in two days. The hospital set up vaccination sites in local parking lots and offered the vaccines to hospital staff and local EMS staff.
“This whole year has been a combination of efforts between organizations, and this was one more step in that partnership,” said Jessica Lizardo, information technology manager at Nor-Lea. “Local EMS wasn’t given an allotment, so we made sure to prioritize those frontline folks as well.”
With the Community Connect program, Providence and Community Technologies are able to share its EHR with health systems in smaller communities and quickly respond to workflow requests that allow the connected organizations to more effectively distribute COVID-19 vaccinations, helping to build healthier communities together.View all News