EHR Vendors Tweak Software to Support Mass Vaccination Efforts

Ken Terry

February 18, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The two leading vendors of electronic health record (EHR) systems, Epic and Cerner, announced recently that they were supporting mass vaccination sites with specially designed software. They are among a number of EHR suppliers and other technology firms that have begun to provide technical support in the national COVID-19 vaccination effort.

Epic said its software is now being used to support 100 mass vaccination sites across the country. These locations have the capacity to administer 300,000 vaccinations per day, the firm said. Through these mass sites as well as traditional clinical settings, Epic software is being used to administer approximately 500,000 vaccinations daily. The company said it plans to add another 100 vaccination sites in the next 30 days.

Epic said its solution includes patient outreach tools to reach priority populations, patient scheduling, mobile workflows, and real-time reporting to public health authorities. In addition, its MyChart patient portal is being used for automatic scheduling of second vaccine doses, as well as to document a patient's vaccination status, according to Healthcare IT News.

Many of the mass vaccinations are being conducted by healthcare systems in collaboration with state and local public health authorities. Among the Epic-supported systems involved are the following:

  • Novant Health (North Carolina), which is using Epic to schedule vaccinations at mass vaccination sites and community pop-up events. So far, Novant has administered 63,000 vaccine doses, Epic said.

  • UC Health (Colorado), which is using an updated version of Rover, Epic's mobile app for healthcare providers, at a mass vaccination site at Coors Field in Denver. The EHR is also being used to invite and schedule patients for shots at UC Health's 11 vaccination clinics. To date, UC Health has administered more than 120,000 vaccine doses.

  • Cooper University Health Care (New Jersey), which has extended Epic to the Camden County Vaccination Center at Camden County College in a joint effort with Jefferson Health. Patients are using MyChart to register for vaccination appointments.

Cerner said in a blog post that 175 clients in 11 countries have installed the company's mass vaccination solution. These include Truman Medical Centers/University Health in Kansas City, Northern Light Health in Maine, the Cook County (Chicago) Public Health Department, the US Department of Defense, and the US Coast Guard. In addition, the Milton Keynes University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is using Cerner's solution in the UK vaccine rollout.

Cerner's hospital-oriented software helps clinicians register patients and identify, administer, and record vaccinations, the company said. The vendor noted that its EHR also provides relevant data to streamline the screening process, as well as data on patient allergies.

More Vendors Get Into Vaccination Effort

Other EHR vendors have also tweaked their software to prepare for its use in vaccination efforts. These include some EHRs used mainly by ambulatory care physicians, such as NextGen, Greenway, and athenahealth. However, fewer than 20% of primary care physicians are currently administering vaccines to their patients, according to a recent survey for the Primary Care Collaborative.

Zocdoc, which offers an online appointment booking app for consumers, has a new feature that allows people to find COVID-19 vaccine appointments near them, assuming they're part of an eligible demographic group. Zocdoc is available in nine major US cities.

Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Salesforce have also jumped into the fray, offering various kinds of support for vaccinators. However, their solutions lack the connectivity between providers and state public health authorities that some EHR vendors supply. In addition, clinicians who use these outside solutions must leave their EHR workflow and log onto a website.

Epic and Cerner are among the entities involved in the Vaccine Credential Initiative, which is developing a standard format for digital records of vaccination status. The initiative, announced in January, has a wide array of stakeholders, such as the Mayo Clinic, Microsoft, MITRE, Oracle, Salesforce, the CARIN Alliance, and Safe Health.

The goal of this initiative is to create open, interoperable standards that can be used in cards that show patients' vaccine status in order to enable a safer return to work, school, travel, and other activities.

The records will be stored on SMART Health Cards that can be accessed via digital wallet apps or QR codes.

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