The role of interoperability in COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Chief Technology and Innovation Officer for the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society Steve Wretling joined the Becker's Healthcare podcast to discuss the future of interoperability and how hospitals should prepare.

One of the big topics he touched on was the role of interoperability in COVID-19 vaccine distribution when the vaccine is widely available. Here is an excerpt of the conversation. Click here to download the full episode and subscribe to the podcast.

Question: What role does interoperability play in COVID-19 vaccine distribution?

Steve Wretling: Interoperability is front and center as an enabler to distributing the vaccine. The scale of deploying the COVID-19 vaccine is global in nature; it's unprecedented and it's more important than ever to be able to track the information about vaccine distribution in a more out way than ever before. The more it can be standardized, the better off the health system will be. It's not clear yet what the COVID-19 vaccine protocol will look like. It may be early on, the first dose people take could be two doses; as we've seen with other vaccines there could be routine follow-up needed on an annual basis. There is going to need to be that kind of traction, which gets tied into reporting and understanding when patients show up in the hospital or another setting, have they had a dose or both doses. You don't want to give them an extra dose. Sometimes people forget or don't remember, so being able to access that data and make sure it's included in the care process and being reported out, your population of patients as a physician and health system and hospital will be very important from a public health perspective as well.

Interoperability can and hopefully will play a role in the conditions of how the vaccine is controlled and stored, understanding that the vaccine was handled properly so that they are effective when they are given. If not, there could be some misunderstanding or gap in knowing how effective those are. Also the opportunity to quickly gather and report if there are adverse reactions to a certain batch of vaccine or by a certain maker even though it's gone through all the trials or conditions, being able to record that data and share and report that data to the state and other types of health authorities is going to be important.

I think the other thing that is really important in getting access to the data about the distribution is knowing if there is enough of a population getting or not getting the vaccine that could compromise herd immunities in some areas. That is going to be critical for public health officials to understand the distribution and knowing where there are different types of targeted education opportunities for individuals who may or may not know how to think about the vaccine.

Those may be some of the key cases, and there are a lot of other things that will need to be done but underlying that is the role of interoperability to enable that.


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