Call to Action: Unique Circumstances Require Public-Private Collaboration
Today, over 31,000 pharmacies are electronically connected to state immunization information systems throughout the United States. The opportunity to increase this number to 50,000 in the next six months significantly strengthens Public Health infrastructure to support the COVID-19 pandemic and all future immunization and Public Health reporting requirements.
As a new COVID-19 vaccine moves closer to approval, it is evident that increasing the number of connected partners prior to the delivery of the vaccine will be critical for the success of the eventual vaccine rollout. By utilizing the established network, leveraging current public-private partnerships, and additional investment, we are confident that these relationships will result in a 60% increase in the number of connected pharmacies.
On behalf of the over 31,000 pharmacies participating on our network, we ask Public Health to consider investing in the expansion of the network in their states to specifically:
- Ensure that all vaccines provided in your state, for all age ranges (including a COVID-19 vaccine once available), are administered to the right person at the right-time and that the data regarding population coverage is available to your Public Health team through streamlined onboarding and information sharing.
- Leverage pharmacies to test and initiate treatment for flu, strep and minor ailments resulting in the preservation of scarce medical providers and hospital resources during this time.
When an existing or a new vaccine is required to reach large populations, the underserved, or targeted subpopulations the pharmacist becomes the third health care partner alongside physicians and Public Health. It is critical that every vaccine administered is available within immunization information systems through bi-directional exchange so all health professionals, Public Health, and individuals have access to this vital information.
Ensuring the maximum electronic connections increases real-time information and situational awareness. Information derived from data empowers the users of this network to inform and influence. If 60% or more of the health care provider community is connected to Public Health, the increase in real-time information more than doubles.
The patient’s immunization information record, when retrieved from these consolidated Public Health systems, informs the provider, caregiver or individual what immunizations have been received and where gaps in coverage exist to better inform Public Health policy. This will be especially true during the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine, as the world will be watching. Having access to real-time data will be critical for Public Health leadership to make informed decisions on vaccine distribution and administration.
Provider connections to Public Health allow reporting of a vaccine adverse event, monitoring and managing inventory, analytics on the populations they serve, and best practice communication. Connected networks improve Public Health’s ability to determine population immunization coverage rates for diseases ranging from Measles to Shingles. Geographical representations of data illustrate areas of the underserved. The users of this network benefit by knowing where vaccine resources are available at any point in time. Health leaders have current data with analytical representations of information to support response, operational tactics, and information requests.
For 31 years, STChealth has provided Public Health programs with technology to support their immunization and disease reporting systems. Since the 2009 pandemic, we have partnered with a retail pharmacy and currently work with all retail chains and many of the independent pharmacies. Along with our partners, this national immunization data exchange network connects every state immunization system to pharmacies throughout the United States.
But it is not enough. Too many of the pharmacies and many providers are only reporting immunization events. They have not activated these connections to support real-time data retrieval. Their ability to retrieve a patient’s immunization history at the point of care to include decision support that identifies the individual’s immunization gaps is limiting their ability to influence using Public Health as a trusted source. 100% of the current 31,000 connections should all support real-time 2-way communication.
It is also not enough that a significant number of pharmacies and providers are operationally ready and are waiting in queues for Public Health to on-board each location. This represents 30% of an additional 19,000 connections that would support our goal. As mentioned above, 100% of these would also support real-time communications.
At STChealth, our onboarding teams are working hard to more rapidly help Public Health connect to pharmacies, EHRs, and schools. We serve as the point of contact and facilitator for our partners, who include the pharmacy associations, state immunization coalitions, vaccine manufacturers, payers, EHRs, and Health IT vendors. Each is investing time and resources to support increasing this connected network.
We have determined if every state set aside $250K-$500K to accelerate their Public Health immunization connections, we would reach and likely surpass the 50,000 goal.
But we want to do more. While this network primarily shares immunization data, the underlying infrastructure in production is built to support all required Public Health reporting, including point-of-care testing results and notifiable conditions. It is time to operationalize this network to add pharmacy clinical testing, reporting, and potentially consumer COVID-19 in-home test reporting.
We encourage Public Health officials to allocate funding to their immunization programs and preparedness funding for these types of efforts. We can take a more direct role and facilitate your state’s expansion by partnering through the state pharmacy associations, immunization coalitions, or leveraging national pharmacy membership organizations to fast track the state onboarding efforts with the support of Public Health.
If we can provide you with an analytic view of the number of connections in your state and their current utilization, contact either Todd or myself through our email, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Popovich |CEO STChealth| 520-488-9589 (c)
Todd Watkins | President STChealth | 505-504-0037 (c)