COVID-19 Vaccine: Overcoming the Challenges for Tracking and Data Sharing
May 7, 2021COVID-19 Vaccine: Overcoming the Challenges for Tracking and Data Sharing

Now is a critical time for healthcare organizations to have the EHR integration necessary with public health groups to capture and report required patient immunization data. Scientists have produced vaccines for COVID-19 in record time. While healthcare professionals are working to slow the spread of the deadly pandemic, the federal government is dealing with an unprecedented amount of personal information in tracking the population of Americans getting the vaccine. The data collection is presenting many challenges, including privacy concerns, and forcing states and healthcare organizations to find a balance between protecting patient rights and ensuring a speedy rollout of the vaccine with accurate COVID-19 vaccine tracking. 

Policymakers, health systems, pharmacies, and public health leaders are facing up to the fact that the current U.S. data infrastructure may not adequately support the COVID-19 vaccination effort. Tracking the distribution of vaccines, ensuring equitable distribution, and determining who receives them is a massive IT challenge, especially in the race to vaccinate 60% to 70% of the population in order to achieve herd immunity. Here are some of the challenges we’re up against — and actions that can help improve the data infrastructure to better manage tracking and data sharing in the vaccination effort. 

Standardize Data Sharing with EHR Integration

One of the first steps in the continued vaccine rollout is to standardize the tracking of personal health data. Vaccination records include personal identifiers, which can be difficult for the government to access and manage in compliance with federal and state privacy laws. Additional frustrations include the lack of a single national ID system besides Social Security Numbers, which aren’t issued to everyone in the United States and are not uniformly used by all healthcare providers. EHR integration can help improve the standardization and security of personal identifiers and other personal health information to cut down on misreported data, duplication, and inappropriately merged records. 

Centralize State and Federal Reporting with EHR Integration

Another challenge faced in COVID-19 vaccine tracking and data sharing is the fact that only 60% of American adults register on immunization information systems. There are large variations from state to state, and clinicians and pharmacists administering vaccines have joined the registries. The centralized registries used by each state have the capacity to electronically exchange data with clinical systems and stand to play an important role in verifying vaccines, tracking inventory, and communicating immunization records with providers. 

But right now, reporting by health care providers into immunization information systems is fragmented and not always required. With pharmacists and pharmacy interns ordering and administering COVID-19 vaccinations, not all states are tracking and sharing accurate information. Setting up cross-state data-sharing agreements and using EHR integration to ensure a more consistent and optimally effective manner of reporting will help in the push to vaccinate the entire population of the U.S. 

Align COVID-19 Vaccine Tracking Requirements Across States via EHR Integration

Patient immunization records need to be in a usable format that organizations can capture and transmit to regional public health authorities and the CDC at a rapid pace. The issue with COVID-19 vaccine tracking, however, is that each state has different requirements for immunization records. We need to align as though we are one country with tightly defined COVID-19 vaccine tracking reporting requirements and specifications that are easy for all EHR vendors, pharmacies, and other vaccine administrators to align with. In addition to aligning the specific information collected across states, records also need to be in a format suitable for modern healthcare systems. Digital immunization records in the EHR will assist COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts

EHR Integration Helps Account for Privacy Concerns

Security is always a potential problem in tracking and data sharing, and this definitely applies to the COVID-19 vaccination rollout as well. Medical identity theft and phishing campaigns are both big concerns with COVID-19 vaccine identities and registries as people could use stolen or fake medical IDs to jump the vaccination line. Alternately, people could use fake records to show they have received the vaccine (in order to travel, return to work, etc.) when they actually haven’t. Using digital health platforms with uniform EHR integration can help address privacy, portability, and cybersecurity issues during the national vaccine rollout. 

EHR Integration Helps Recognize the Vaccinated Population

A major problem that will need to be addressed is the need for a private and portable form of ID for vaccinated Americans. This type of “immunity passport” equates to a digitized proof of vaccination status that both ensures privacy and offers portability. In order to facilitate travel and interoperability across organizations, the passports would need to have a common set of global standards linked to passport information. This will require an enormous investment in technology so governments can offer strong verification ability while minimizing required identity information. This endeavor also presents concerns about protecting the equity of vulnerable populations with limited access to vaccination services and smartphones. 

How Can Healthcare Providers Aid the COVID-19 Vaccine Tracking Process 

It is critical for providers and clinicians to understand what data needs to be captured throughout the vaccine distribution process, both for internal purposes and for aligning with regional public health and CDC requirements. Organizations should make sure that clinical staff is aware of what data clinicians will need and that everyone is well-versed in the systems used to access data in and out of the doctor's offices, hospitals, or provider facilities. CIOs need to work with vendors to prepare and update EHRs for COVID-19 vaccination distribution to make sure that modules have the right fields in place and the user experience is as streamlined as possible. Staff should work with vendors to make additional adjustments within the EHR to distribute the vaccine, track distribution, and adhere to any established protocol regarding reminders and adverse events. 

With the vaccination distribution well underway, healthcare organizations must continue to advance effective IT solutions that support national immunization. The more ability that providers have to leverage EHR systems and other automated technologies, the more it will ease the burdens of tracking and data sharing throughout the COVID-19 vaccination process. If you have questions or would like to consult with the experts at TempDev about how to best align your COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic to meet governmental reporting requirements, contact us here or by calling 888.TEMP.DEV.