IT support for vaccinations rolls out

We are still not sure how Australia’s vaccine roll-out can be both on a war footing while at the same time definitely not a race, but things are moving along both in Australia and New Zealand in the early stages of each country’s mass vaccination plans.

The New Zealand Ministry of Health’s deputy director-general for digital and data Shayne Hunter announced yesterday that MOH will release a national booking system for its roll-out at the end of next month. We’ve been critical in the past of Australia’s tardy pace in developing a booking solution and the same can be levelled at the Kiwis, although they say they are only getting their system up and running as the priority initially had been on the National Contact Tracing Solution. That was followed in swift order by the COVID-19 Immunisation Register (CIR), which is an interim system built using Salesforce to replace the legacy National Immunisation Register (NIR) and which will be further developed into the permanent National Immunisation Solution (NIS).

NZ has also been working with Accenture on the national inventory management and delivery system, and has also modernised the existing vaccine safety monitoring solution run by the University of Otago. For scheduling actual vaccinations, director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said that the plan was to deliver the Pfizer vaccine first through the managed isolation and quarantine centres (MIQs), the DHBs and GP hubs, and those early cohorts could be managed by the DHBs’ existing scheduling systems so a national one wasn’t critical. That hasn’t worked out too well for some DHBs – Southern’s system has been called a shambles, for example – but a national solution is now being configured at the moment using Salesforce and a plug-in for scheduling.

And now that the refrigeration requirements for the Pfizer vaccine are not so restrictive, GPs will be called into action to help out for New Zealand’s roll-out. As NZ Doctor reported recently, GP software vendors have been working with the ministry on an interface into the CIR so GPs can check on their patients’ vaccination status. The plan is now to release an API for a two-way interface this month so GPs can also upload vaccination data.

In Australia, despite the lag in developing the national booking solution, it all seems to be working quite well for those appointments that are available. The new advice on AstraZeneca for under 50s has certainly thrown local plans into disarray, but vaccinations in the community are still going ahead. The Australian Department of Health is providing daily data updates – NZ is doing it weekly – and for the stats fans, GP appointment booking solution HotDoc has set up a nifty little dashboard showing how many appointments are being booked through its system as well as how many vaccines have been administered, all in near real time.

HotDoc’s dashboard is also showing a state breakdown, and while the data isn’t the whole story of course as it just covers HotDoc’s appointments, which it says represents 65 per cent of COVID vaccine bookings in general practice and COVID respiratory clinics at the moment, the state-by-state breakdown might be a bit misleading due to market share in each state. Still, it’s nice data to look at.

With talk now turning to jurisdictional-run high-volume vaccination centres, the good news is that most have set up their own vaccine reporting and scheduling systems that can support the local effort, the Commonwealth thankfully not having insisted on giving them a national solution. Victoria for instance awarded a $5m contract to Microsoft but some health services are using existing technology, like Cerner’s EMR at Alfred Health. eHealth NSW worked with Cerner to set up an AIR reporting system for NSW’s needs, and some hospital and health services in Queensland have been using the same system.

SA Health tells us that each local health network is using their own processes to assist with bookings and to remind staff about their appointment, but it is also using the Allscripts Sunrise EMR at big sites like the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Flinders Medical Centre and Lyell McEwin Hospital. WA is using an Accenture/Salesforce/MyHealthFirst solution, and as we reported recently, ACT Health and its IT partners managed to get up a whole Epic solution for its needs in a hurry.

(We must admit we’ve been a bit lax on finding out what the NT and Tasmania are using – if you know, give us a bell.)

So despite some shambolic activity, the roll out is moving along at its own pace. As we watch it with interest, we thought we’d poll readers on their thoughts about the IT solutions being provided. We recently asked if you thought Australia’s vaccination roll-out was on track, and most said no. This week, we ask a slightly different question:

Do you think Australia and New Zealand have selected the correct IT solutions to support their respective roll-outs?

Vote here and feel free to leave your comments below.

Last week, we asked: Is ACT Health’s “all in with Epic” philosophy the right one? There was a 60-40 split – 60 per cent said yes, 40 per cent said no.

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