To say that COVID-19 has changed the landscape of our local and global economies is an understatement, especially when it comes to the healthcare industry and our desperate need for innovative technologies. Governments, scientists, pharmaceutical companies, and healthcare sectors of all types have been scrambling for over a year to bring this pandemic to an end. Their focus was first and foremost on the successful creation of a safe and effective vaccination. Now that this has been accomplished, we are turning all of our attention towards how to allocate and distribute limited supplies in a timely and efficient manner to billions of people.
Providers are currently administering about 1.67 million doses per day according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. At the current pace, authorities are projecting that about half of the U.S. population will be at least partially vaccinated by the end of June, and nearly all by mid-November. To help accelerate these efforts, state and local health departments are turning to online appointment scheduling apps and communication software to help them scale up distribution.
For instance, New York State’s Am I Eligible site provides an online eligibility form prior to being able to book an appointment. Once pre-approved, the website’s system allows for a limited number of appointments, whereby once they are filled, people go into a virtual “waiting room” that holds their place in line on a first-come, first-served basis. With an increase in traffic, the site has experienced some challenges, however it is dramatically helping healthcare units plan distributions, mitigate crowds, and keep people safe so they can administer COVID vaccinations more efficiently.
Online Apps & Virtual Waiting Rooms Promote Positive Response
Scheduling COVID-19 vaccinations has caused a sense of panic for many Americans, especially those within the eligible 65+ age category that are not as tech savvy as younger generations. Senior Living Homes, mobile medical units, hospitals, and pharmacies that are distributing the vaccine are looking for quick and viable solutions to help streamline the process so that more people can gain access to the vaccine. Beyond crowd control and/or managing long term waitlists, they are looking for ways to communicate real-time information in the easiest way possible so that:
- Patients are knowledgeable about what they need to do prior to their appointment.
- Upon a virtual check-in, they receive and are able to fill out important medical forms online.
- There is a virtual “waiting room” that communicates real time status so that patients stay informed as to where they are in line.
- In case of a no-show, the time sensitive vaccines are not wasted as the missed appointment can immediately be filled by an applicant within the virtual “waiting room.”
Socioeconomic status and age, as they relate to access and/or a familiarity with online apps, have added to the fear that many Americans are already experiencing. In response, friends, family members, and volunteers across the U.S. are offering their time and services to provide more equal opportunity. For instance, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker opened call centers to help seniors book vaccine appointments, and in Seattle 17-year-old Arin Jaff began offering help to his immediate community after watching his grandparents struggle. These types of response are both palpable and necessary to achieve timely results that will save lives.
Information is incredibly valuable when it comes to booking a vaccination appointment, especially in regards to availability, eligibility, and real time status for long term waitlists. NextME’s appointment booking app is working to make the process as easy as possible for everyone involved, meaning both clients and the public. Their products integrate with other software platforms so that organizations are not required to revamp their entire system in order to receive the benefits of the additional services.
Below is a high level overview of how NextME can work with other software platforms (without a deep integration) to manage long term waitlists.
Step 1: Depending on how many vaccines are available, the NextME Administer is able to send out a mass email or text reminder using their preferred appointment software or it informs the contact list to come in on any given day as a walk-in during the hours of operation.
Step 2: If a patient has an appointment, the administrator can drop NextME’s URL into their custom SMS text reminders of their upcoming appointments for patients to check-in once they arrive to their parking lot.
Step 3: NextME administrator will then see their patients’ info populate into their mobile app as they arrive and can swipe and notify each patient to check in.
NextME’s additional features that make the process even easier include:
- Check in QR Codes that walk-in patients can utilize.
- Leverage our queue filter feature to help administrators triage patients according to their reason for visit
- A “Geo-Fence” that enables the Client to control the distance a patient has to be from their vaccination site before they can check-in.
- The ability to control scheduled hours as to when self check-in forms are available to the public.
At NextME, we’ve taken our software one step further than reservation platforms. Our virtual waitlist software is a new category of service that helps organizations stay connected to their patients at all times, thus enabling more accurate scheduling processes for long-term waitlists. Beyond helping eliminate crowded waiting rooms, you can improve your customers’ experiences and provide them with important information as it relates to their healthcare.
Our SMS-based technology also provides a simpler solution for less-connected and less-tech savvy populations, such as people aged 65+ and those of lower socioeconomic status. According to 2019 Pew studies, more than 85% of people aged 65+ and 70% of households who make less than $30,000 per year own cell phones. This outpaces the number of people within the above demographic ranges that own computers or have broadband internet access. Unlike most vaccine administration sites and technologies, NextME requires only that patients have a cell phone number that can receive SMS messages in order to join and receive notifications about their place in the waitlist.
The healthcare industry needs high-level solutions that will enable facilities to widely distribute as many vaccines as possible in an organized and fair manner. Online appointment scheduling and virtual waitlists aim to do precisely that. If you’re interested in learning how NextME’s virtual tools can streamline operations in a safe and efficient manner at your senior living home, mobile medical unit, hospital, and/or pharmacy, follow this link to contact us. Together we can make a difference in the well-being of our global communities.