State and local healthcare organizations are facing multiple challenges in getting COVID-19 vaccines to communities. Andy Martin, group vice president at TTEC, shares insights and best practices that he and his team have gathered from their work helping public and private sector health organizations address those very challenges as the vaccine rollout continues.
We know that for many people just signing up for a vaccine appointment is a confusing and frustrating process. What are you hearing from health officials in terms of the key challenges that they're facing in getting the vaccine out?
Yeah, that's a great question. I think we're seeing some consistency across the board at both the state and the local level. Each state of course, is handling the process a little bit differently, but I’d say there are three main things that they're facing in terms of challenges. One of them is around just the communication. And you mentioned that upfront. How are we communicating with the citizens?
The other is increased call volumes—unexpectedly high call volumes into these states and local health [organizations] that frankly, they just weren't prepared for. So large call volumes are a big piece of this. And the last one is struggling to report accurately, whether that is vaccination supply or what's going on with the scheduling, that's a challenge. And I can go into a little bit of detail on each. As you think about communication planning, many states, state governments who received the vaccine simply sent those vaccines out to what we call points of distribution.
Those could be pharmacies, local health communities, or hospital systems, but those points of distribution were responsible then to communicate with their respective constituents on how, when, what's the availability, et cetera. And what we found was there was really not a centralized approach from the states to really manage the expectations of the citizens. And I think that lack of a communication plan, a structured communication plan, can really create a challenge for some of the local state and health officials.
The other one thing that I mentioned was increased call volumes. And just to give you a sense, probably about four weeks ago now we worked with a point of distribution within the State of Texas for example, that happened to be a pharmacy in this case. But that pharmacy had folks answering the phones that were actual pharmacists, the phone was ringing off the hook to the tune of roughly 22,000 calls a day that were coming in.
And they just didn't expect that kind of call volume and it created some real challenges for them. So I think anticipating that this is an unprecedented event and that you will be receiving much higher call volumes than you might expect, with questions about efficacy, questions about availability, those will happen and you have to anticipate that.
And the last one was accurate reporting, and that is a centralized registration and scheduling system in many, many cases in most states. In fact, they've left that up to the points of distribution to create those registrations. And as a result, they've delegated that out and there's limited visibility at the states and even at the local health community level on how to report accurately, whether that's again about availability, or about schedules, about who’s been vaccinated and who hasn't. And that becomes really, really important to get, when you're using myriad systems to try and get consistent information and data, it can be a real challenge.