New automation software launches for NHS vaccine programme
Inform Health, a technology partner to sexual health, HIV and sexual assault referral centres (SARC) in the UK has created software to help automate the management of the Covid-19 vaccination programmes for healthcare staff.
The software, which recently went live at a London teaching hospital, aims to deliver substantial reductions in administrative resource for National Health Service (NHS) hospital trusts, while facilitating quick and convenient participation in the biggest immunisation programme in history for appropriate staff.
The software has been designed to function with minimal manual administration. Once staff details have been uploaded and divided into priority cohorts, a single manual email is required to request that recipients update their information. All other steps in the process are triggered by a combination of patient self-managed actions, confirmation by the healthcare provider that the patient is suitable for a the second dose of the vaccine, and system automation.
The process begins when staff members go online to update their contact information on the web-based system. Once complete, Inform Health’s vaccination software will invite staff members to book their first appointment via automated SMS notifications. They can then log in to the system, view clinic availability and book their first vaccination appointment.
When staff members attend their first appointment and receive their first dose, the clinical staff record the national vaccination data set and confirm the patient is suitable for their next dose. On confirmation, the system will invite the patient by SMS to book their second appointment within the designated timeframe decided by the different vaccine manufacturers and current guidance.
Should staff members fail to book their second appointment, the system will send repeated automated reminders before the start of the second dose window, before alerting administrative personnel that they have missed their vaccination.
Inform Health reconfigured its sexual health systems earlier this year, which are being used by multiple NHS customers, including Barts Health NHS Trust, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, to operate streamlined Covid-19 staff antigen and antibody testing programmes, research programmes and even face mask training.
Sue Bunn, co-founder of Inform Health, explains that the software's capacity to manage multiple patient cohorts and manufacturers' vaccines simultaneously represents a lifeline for NHS trusts working under immense pressure during the pandemic’s second wave.
“With tens of thousands of NHS staff off sick or self-isolating because of Covid-19, the MRHA’s approval of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine, Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and, most recently, the Moderna vaccine is welcome news for trusts that understandably want to provide vital protection to staff and ensure they are able to cope with an increasing number of patients requiring care" she said.
“As a committed technology partner to multiple NHS trusts and with a ten-year track record of delivering innovative technology solutions to sexual health, HIV and SARC services, we felt duty bound to support our customers in any way we could.
"At the onset of the pandemic, we worked around the clock to rapidly develop systems that would better manage Covid-19 staff testing programmes – systems that have saved Nottingham University Hospitals 180,000 staff hours between April and December alone. Now we’re proud to offer our NHS customers an off the shelf system that will automate the complex administration processes and deliver substantial savings in time and resource for staff immunisation programmes too.”
Getting ready for cloud data-driven healthcare
As healthcare continues to recognise the value of data and digital transformation, many organisations are relying on the cloud to make their future-forward and data-centric thinking a reality. In fact, the global healthcare cloud computing market was valued at approximately $18 billion and is expected to generate around $61 billion USD by 2025.
At the forefront of these changes is the rapid adoption of cloud-based, or software-as-a-service (SaaS), applications. These apps can be used to handle patient interactions, track prescriptions, care, billing and more, and the insights derived from this important data can vastly improve operations, procurement and courses of treatment. However, before healthcare organisations can begin to dream about a true data-driven future, they have to deal with a data-driven dilemma: compliance.
Meeting regulation requirements
It’s no secret that healthcare is a highly regulated industry when it comes to data and privacy – and rightfully so. Patient records contain extremely sensitive data that, if changed or erased, could cost someone their life. This is why healthcare systems rely on legacy technologies, like Cerner and Epic EHRs, to manage patient information – the industry knows the vendors put an emphasis on making them as secure as possible.
Yet when SaaS applications are introduced and data starts being moved into them, compliance gets complicated. For example, every time a new application is introduced into an organisation, that organisation must have the vendor complete a BAA (Business Associate Agreement). This agreement essentially puts the responsibility for the safety of patients’ information — maintaining appropriate safeguards and complying with regulations — on the vendor.
However, even with these agreements in place, healthcare systems still are at risk of failing to meet compliance requirements. To comply with HIPAA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration 21 CFR Part 11 and other regulations that stipulate the need to exercise best practices to keep electronic patient data safe, healthcare organisations must maintain comprehensive audit trails – something that gets increasingly difficult when data sits in an application that resides in the vendor’s infrastructure.
Additionally, data often does not stay in the applications – instead healthcare users download, save and copy it into other business intelligence tools, creating data sprawl across the organisation and exposing patient privacy to greater risk.
With so many of these tools that are meant to spur growth and more effective care creating compliance challenges, it begs the question: how can healthcare organisations take advantage of the data they have without risking non-compliance?
Yes, healthcare organisations can adhere to regulations while also getting valuable insights from the wealth of data they have available. However, to help do this, organisations must own their data. This means data must be backed up and stored in an environment that they have control over, rather than in the SaaS vendors’ applications.
Backing up historical SaaS application data directly from an app into an organisation’s own secure cloud infrastructure, such as AWS or Microsoft Azure, makes it easier, and less costly, to maintain a digital chain of custody – or a trail of the different touchpoints of data. This not only increases the visibility and auditability of that data, but organisations can then set appropriate controls around who can access the data.
Likewise, having data from these apps located in one central, easily accessible location can decrease the number of copies floating around an organisation, reducing the surface area of exposure while also making it easier for organisations to securely pull data into business intelligence tools.
When healthcare providers have unfettered access to all their historical data, the possibilities for growth and insights are endless. For example, having ownership and ready access to authorised data can help organisations further implement and support outcome-based care. Insights enabled by this data will help inform diagnoses, prescriptions, treatment plans and more, which benefits not only the patient, but the healthcare ecosystem as a whole.
To keep optimising and improving care, healthcare systems must take advantage of new tools like SaaS applications. By backing up and owning their historical SaaS application data, they can do so while minimising the risk to patient privacy or compliance requirements. Having this ownership and access can propel healthcare organisations to be more data-driven – creating better outcomes for everyone.