The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently issued an emergency regulation requiring COVID-19 vaccination of eligible staff at healthcare facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. For hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), medical groups, urgent care providers, and all other healthcare organizations that provide treatment for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, the clock is now ticking. The regulation requires such organizations to establish a policy ensuring all eligible staff have received the first dose of a two-dose vaccine or a one-dose vaccine prior to providing any care, treatment, or other services by Dec. 5, 2021. Furthermore, all eligible staff must receive the necessary shots to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022. The regulation provides for select exemptions.
Organizations with staff who remain unvaccinated will likely need to overcome a number of potential barriers in the coming weeks, including the delivery of two vaccine doses (if required) and different timing for the second dose, depending upon the manufacturer; confusion about the different vaccines available; uncertainty concerning whether to receive the vaccine; and the spread of misinformation and disinformation, which have been a challenge throughout the pandemic.
Essential to a successful vaccine distribution infrastructure that can effectively coordinate the administering of doses while addressing these and other challenges is communication. And there is no better means of communicating about the various issues concerning the COVID-19 vaccine than using text messaging.
Text Messaging Is Critical To a Vaccine Program's Success
Here are six of the ways organizations can leverage texting to support their vaccine coordination and distribution efforts.
1. Surveying about willingness to receive the vaccine
An organization can send a text message to stakeholders (e.g., staff members, patients, vendor partners) asking if they are willing to receive the vaccine. A two-way texting platform will permit recipients to respond, such as with either "Yes" or "No."
Based upon the survey's results, an organization may choose to take one or more next steps. For example, if there is a high percentage of "No" responses, the organization may elect to provide more education about the vaccine and its importance, safety, and efficacy to help increase acceptance. If "No" responses are largely associated with one or more departments, an organization may allocate educational resources specifically toward those areas. Individual "No" responses may lead administration to directly contact these team members to discuss their concerns and determine appropriate next steps.
2. Sharing updates
Text messaging is a proven method for quickly reaching and successfully engaging with recipients. That makes texting a highly efficient manner of providing timely, significant updates about the vaccine and administration process. Texts can be sent to stakeholders sharing details such as which vaccine will be administered, location of where it will be administered, and the distribution timeline.
3. Providing links to additional information and education
Beyond the critical updates noted above, organizations will likely have additional information they will want to provide to stakeholders about vaccine coordination efforts. This may include details on the specific vaccine, the administration process, what vaccine recipients need to bring with them and do to receive the vaccine, directions to the location, explanations of the timeline, cost, potential side effects, myths and misconceptions, and frequently asked questions and their answers.
While this information is too long to include in a single text, an organization may consider building a webpage with all of these details. A text message can include a hyperlink that directs recipients to this page. Considering nearly all mobile phones can now access the internet, including a link makes it simple for an organization to direct stakeholders to such a resource.
4. Surveying about vaccine questions
Once an organization has provided stakeholders with information on the vaccine, administration process, any other details deemed essential for a success execution of the process, this is a good time to again leverage text message surveying. A two-way text can be sent asking recipients if they have any remaining concerns or questions.
If multiple people provide a similar response, an organization may choose to update its published information to provide clarity around the issue. For one-off concerns or questions, the organization may text a response or advise the recipient to reach out via phone (and provide the number to call) to discuss the matter further.
5. Coordinating vaccine administration
As the time approaches for an organization to begin administration of the vaccine, texting will prove to be a valuable tool in coordinating this process. A text can be sent providing instructions to recipients about how to schedule their vaccine appointments(s). If scheduling will occur online, the text can provide the link to the scheduling portal.
Subsequent texts can confirm vaccine appointments (date, time, location), provide directions to the vaccination site, remind recipients of requirements (e.g., bring identification, wear a mask, do not come of feeling unwell), and share instructions about what recipients should do if they need to reschedule. A two-way survey text can be used for recipients to confirm their appointment.
Text messaging can also be used to provide a link to the accompanying "vaccine information statement," which is the information sheet produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that explains the benefits and risks of a vaccine to vaccine recipients, or an approved emergency use authorization (EUA) fact sheet, as required, to each vaccine recipient, the adult caregiver accompanying the recipient, or other legal representative.
6. Delivering follow-up information
Text messaging is a great way to not only communicate prior to the administration process but after as well. An organization can send a text to recipients that advises recipients on how to schedule their second dose (if necessary). A text can provide information about potential side effects and adverse drug events and what to do if recipients have concerns about how they believe they are responding to the vaccine. If an organization is mandating vaccination for some or all vendors, a text message can inform recipients about bringing proof of their vaccination when they next visit the organization.
A two-way text survey can ask recipients if they are experiencing any side effects. "Yes" responses can trigger a reply text that provides directions. A two-way text can also be used to ask recipients if they have feedback about the vaccine process. Worthwhile suggestions can be implemented to make the remainder of the COVID-19 vaccine program — and any other vaccine programs — more successful.
Dialog Health Makes It Easy to Add Vaccine Text Messaging
The Dialog Health platform is a simple and effective way for organizations to add text messaging to support and improve their COVID-19 vaccine coordination process. To learn more about the platform, schedule a demo, email mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (877) 666-1132.