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Google goes into battle to help the state expand vaccination push

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Editor’s Note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance at Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Now that COVID-19 vaccination efforts are hampered by lack of coordination and overwhelmed by public demand, Google is a cloud-based analytics, scheduling, and information software for state and local governments.

Google reports that “many states” are already using new solutions, but at least one state uses only some of Google’s suite of technical tools for state-wide health information. He states that he will continue to rely heavily on health information exchange (HIE). An official from the North Carolina Health Department told Medscape Medical News.

According to a blog post by Mike Daniels, vice president of the global public sector, Google’s Intelligent Vaccine Impact technology package “improves vaccine availability and equitable access to those in need, and the government vaccines. We help build awareness, trust and acceptance. ” , Google Cloud.

The tool suite has four parts. First, Google and its partners have built a vaccine information portal to help people learn about vaccine availability, determine if they are eligible for injections, register for vaccinations, and submit information. .. Google claims that these portals are scalable to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of people registering at the same time.

Google’s schedule management component uses a “virtual agent” to respond to callers, allowing them to qualify, register, and schedule vaccine reservations even if they can’t go online.

For those with internet access, Google offers online registration and pre-screening, location search and scheduling, and automatic reminders.

Google also uses a machine learning approach to notify you of infectious disease policy decisions. Artificial intelligence software predicts how policy changes such as mask obligations, modified resumption plans, or vaccination programs will affect the pandemic trajectory in a particular region.

In addition, according to a Fierce Healthcare report, these tools help organizations predict and model cases of COVID-19 to ensure fair vaccine distribution.

To address vaccination hesitation, Google is about how individuals get vaccinated based on data from “call centers, websites and apps, chatbots, advertising campaigns, social media, search, news feeds”. It has an “sentiment analysis” component that measures how you feel.

Government agencies may use this for “direct communication efforts that provide clear and accurate information to specific audiences and address specific concerns that arise.”

According to Fierce Healthcare, Google’s vaccination initiative has joined the initiative of several other leading technology companies such as Microsoft, IBM and Salesforce.

North Carolina hybrid approach

North Carolina is using Google’s platform to provide eligibility screening and information on COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination sites, said Sam Gibbs, Deputy Secretary of Technology and Operations at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Says.

In addition, the ministry plans to deploy Google chatbots and virtual agents to automate call centers receiving millions of consumer calls regarding vaccination programs, he said. Told to.

North Carolina health officials realized that the public health infrastructure developed for influenza vaccines and others could not fulfill the overwhelming mission of immunizing the entire state’s population with COVID-19. We chose Google’s platform to scale up features quickly.

Gibbs explained that he needed a solution that could quickly respond to changes from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding which groups should be vaccinated in what order. The state also needed to improve communication with the general public and answer questions about COVID-19 vaccination.

After considering the different platforms, he said: “Using Google’s screening tools, we’ve solved the problem of a large, scalable, mobile-friendly platform that allows people to come in and answer a few questions. It’s your turn to get vaccinated. Please tell us by text or email. “

However, the state government does not use high-tech enterprise forecasting and analysis tools. Six months ago, according to Gibbs, his department used racial and ethnic information to ensure that “alienated” populations received a proportionate proportion of available vaccines. Was developed. Similarly, he said, it’s not clear that the state needs Google sentiment analysis to overcome vaccine hesitation, especially in the minority community.

According to Gibbs, the ministry has not decided whether to use Google’s scheduling software. Scheduling is complex and varies from situation to situation, he said.

In the early days when the state primarily vaccinated healthcare workers, major healthcare systems used scheduling software. In the current phase, the local health department, which is eligible for people over the age of 75, organizes and schedules vaccination clinics. CVS and Walgreens have processed the care facility schedule, and the government is now distributing the vaccine directly to Walgreens.

“So we’re trying to understand where and by whom our scheduling system is used,” Gibbs said. However, he added that there is a state-wide scheduling system and Google’s solution is one of those being considered by the state.

North Carolina refines its HIE

Long before major tech companies like Google appeared in the healthcare scene, over 100 public HIEs connected healthcare providers in communities across the country. The North Carolina HIE includes most providers in the state, Gibbs said. This is because the state requires providers that receive public funds (including Medicaid) to belong to the exchange.

According to Gibbs, HIE was an important part of North Carolina’s public health infrastructure, and during the pandemic, HIE was a decisive advantage. When the medical system vaccinates someone, the vaccination is reported to the HIE, which sends the information to the state’s vaccine management system. Although it is possible to report directly to the state, HIE collates patients and creates a unique identification number for each individual, making it easier to track vaccination status.

His department is now improving the system to allow any provider to find out “whether someone received the first dose and which vaccine they received,” Gibbs said. “So we had this HIE, so we were lucky to have more closed-loop systems.”

He added that CVS and Walgreens, which have obtained the first vaccine shipments from the federal government to augment the database, will send data to the vaccination registry.

“If patients go to another part of the state, this system can verify that they got this kind of shot on this date, and when they are scheduled for a second shot,” he said. Said. “We are just around the corner. We are nearby.”

Other HIEs across the country can be used for the same purpose. In a recent Brookings Institution overview, Niam Yaraghi, PhD, MSc and Peter L. Levin, PhD said: “HIE electronically acquires, organizes, and shares medical data between clinical service points such as doctors, hospitals, and professional healthcare providers. These are lab results, prescriptions, so-called hospitalizations, discharges, and transfers. It is designed to be secretly and safely exchanged, but it can also be used by public health authorities to monitor outbreaks and, more importantly, vaccination status. “

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