How to Prepare Patients and Effectively Distribute the COVID-19 Vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine is here and though there are still a lot of questions about how to determine who gets it when and how to distribute, at some point hospitals, healthcare systems, pharmacies, and medical providers will be vaccinating the general public through drive-thru COVID-19 vaccine clinics and medical offices. If you’re receiving the vaccine and making plans to distribute to patients, you’re likely already getting a high volume of questions from your patients and you’ll want to be thinking about your patient engagement strategy. 

Patient no-shows can be a waste of staff time and resources, but now they also carry the potential of wasting thawed vaccines.

We know no-shows at some level are unavoidable but if there was ever a time to do everything possible to minimize no-shows, it’s now. The COVID-19 vaccines vary by manufacturer, some require two doses, some have to be frozen until ready to use, etc. Keeping patients organized and informed and ensuring vaccines that are thawed and ready to be used aren’t wasted will require strategic patient communication—actionable pieces of information delivered to patients in a variety of modalities at strategic times. 

Simplify Communication about the COVID-19 Vaccine with Patient Engagement Software

The same tools you’re using to keep no-shows minimal, inform patients of changes to provider schedules or clinic hours, and interact in daily patient conversations can help you simply the communication with your patients regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. If it’s been announced that your organization will be receiving the vaccine, you’re likely already receiving questions from patients. The following strategies can help you answer patient questions and guide patients through the process when the vaccine is available to them. 

Use Email, Text, and Phone Calls to Broadcast COVID-19 Information to your Patient Populations

If you’re looking to update a list of patients, a provider’s patient base, or even your employees of general vaccine information, broadcast messaging is the best way to do this. While basic functionality will vary vendor to vendor, broadcast or on-demand messaging solutions generally allow you to specify based on criteria of your choice who should receive messaging and can send in a variety of ways, email, text, and even voice. 

Use Broadcast Messaging, like Relatient’s Broadcast Messenger, to inform patients, families, and employees of: 

  • Vaccine clinic hours, locations, operations
  • How to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment 
  • A link to access information about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine 
  • What to expect at a drive-thru or medical office vaccine appointment 

Create Specific Appointment Reminders to Remind Patients of Their Vaccination Appointments 

Depending on how you structure your vaccine distribution (centralized or decentralized), you may be able to utilize your current Appointment Reminder structure or you could be looking to add a department and assign providers to it. This is where your vendor is key because you’ll likely need a little help to do this. 

If you’re going to want to use a tailored message for COVID-19 vaccine appointments, you’ll want to set up an appointment type or, even two. For instance, if you’re getting the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines, you may want to consider unique appointment types for each dose (ex: Pfizer_dose_1, Pfizer_dose_2) so you can customize the messaging accordingly. 

A word of caution: you’ll want to be careful with your messaging because naming the COVID-19 vaccine in the appointment reminder could be considered disclosing the nature of a patient’s treatment and therefore, unauthorized disclosure of PHI and violation of HIPAA. 

Appointment Reminder Messaging 

If you’re tailoring your appointment reminders to COVID-19 vaccine appointments, you’ll want to be as clear as possible that it’s imperative patients arrive for their appointments as scheduled without disclosing the nature of the patient’s appointment. Here are a few examples of reminder messaging you may want to consider: 

Example: General COVID-19 Vaccine Reminder

Your appointment with Dr. Smith is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec 15 at 2:00 pm. It’s very important to arrive as-scheduled. Please reply 1 to confirm, 2 to cancel, and 3 to reschedule as early as possible. If you cannot make your appointment, please notify us immediately. Thank you. 

Example: Second Dose COVID-19 Vaccine Reminder 

Your appointment with Dr. Smith is scheduled for Tuesday, January 5 at 1:00 pm. This is appointment 2 of 2, it’s very important that you keep this appointment. Reply 1 to confirm, 2 to cancel, and 3 to reschedule as early as possible. If you cannot make your appointment, please notify us immediately. Thank you.

Use Two-Way Patient Chat for One-to-One Patient Conversations

If your patient engagement partner offers two-way patient chat, you can utilize this to help your patients navigate common questions and concerns as they consume information about the COVID-19 vaccine and schedule appointments to be vaccinated. Without SMS-based solutions, these type of one-to-one patient conversations would take hours for staff to complete over the phone. Phone tag with patients can consume previous staff resources and frustrate patients who miss calls while they carry on with their daily activities. SMS-based communications allows your staff to handle more than one conversation at a time and patients the flexibility of interacting with your office without navigating the phone tree or a call center, leaving voicemails, and waiting for a returned call.

Exciting & Overwhelming 

2020 has been a long year and healthcare’s frontline heroes still have a long few months ahead of them—but there is cautious optimism is building. The information about the vaccines is likely to continue changing as each week in this pandemic brings new information and opportunities to refine both the vaccines and the processes that are used to distribute them. As overwhelming as it can be to develop these processes and communicate to your patients, the good news is that if you already have a digital patient engagement strategy in place, you likely have the tools to manage this communication quickly and efficiently. 

If you have questions or you need a responsive partner that can help you move quickly, make changes, and equip you with self-service options and accessible resources, Relatient can help. Give us a call at (866) 473-8160 or connect with us online.