How technology is powering Canada’s vaccine deployment
March 23, 2021
After one of the most challenging years in recent memory, recovery seems to finally be on the horizon with the development and deployment of the much-anticipated COVID-19 vaccine.
The government of Canada developed a three-phased implementation plan that is being carried out by provinces. For instance, in the particular case of Ontario, the plan contemplates first inoculating healthcare workers, long-term care residents, followed by increasing the stock of vaccines, vaccinating more long-term care residents, frontline workers and remote Indigenous communities, and lastly making vaccines available to anyone who wants to be immunized.
While there is hope in this strategy, there are still challenges to overcome as the world faces the question of how to efficiently and effectively vaccinate the entire population. Limited availability, complex storage conditions, transportation requirements, and confusion around the proposed phases are some of the difficulties faced by government agencies overseeing the rollout. In this regard, technology is playing a key role in navigating some of these complexities.
Supporting recovery through efficient vaccine implementation
Technology has been providing solutions to help overcome some of the above-mentioned challenges. Some technological considerations for healthcare providers when setting up vaccination sites include:
- Communication and outreach: Healthcare providers in vaccination sites are in need of efficient ways to communicate with patients. Ensuring strong patient outreach and easy administrative collaboration is key to achieving an effective immunization process when handling large numbers of patients.
Video conferencing tools, such as Cisco Webex, can help ensure flawless communication with patients to remind them of second doses or follow up appointments. Further, such tools can help integrate digital medical records taking away pressure from call centers, creating a seamless virtual experience.
- Network Connectivity: As field hospitals and pop-up vaccinations sites are being rolled out across the country, strong and reliable network connectivity is important for healthcare workers and patients alike.
In January, the Toronto Metro Convention Center was transformed, becoming the first major vaccination sites in the province. The pilot clinic is a benchmark for how other field clinics can operate, providing an opportunity to understand which technologies and where need to be deployed to ensure the efficiency and reliability of its operations.
Although we are still in the early stages of rollout, these pop-up sites must consider deploying a robust and secure network that ensures their operations are high-functioning and safe, particularly as operations will need to have the capability to scale rapidly as vaccine supply ramps up in the coming months Medical devices, iPads used by staff to track patient information, and even guest WIFI networks for waiting patients need to be available and secure, to provide a seamless experience for both patients and healthcare providers.
- Monitoring of equipment and security applications: Vaccine storage conditions have proven to be one of the most challenging elements of the rollout. Vaccines – most notably the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine – require very particular storage conditions, from temperature regulation to safety monitoring. IoT solutions, including real-time temperature monitoring sensors, are important technological considerations to the vaccine deployment to ensure both vaccine effectiveness and reduce potential waste, should equipment like fridges or freezers fail.
Further, when considering the currently limited availability of vaccines, vaccination sites need to be equipped with cameras and security devices that can monitor who has access to them and when, eliminating the risk of bad actors. From cameras to remote monitoring tools, these technologies ensure a safe process for both healthcare providers and patients.
Collaborative effort on the road to recovery
An entire year has gone by since the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in Canada. After a year of loss, uncertainty and fear, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel with the development and rollout of vaccines. The immunization of our entire population and the path towards recovery requires a monumental coordinated effort from our government, healthcare organizations and the private sector.
Technology has become critical in the efficient deployment of the vaccine. The solutions that technology offers, improving overall communication, providing better network connectivity and ensuring safety of equipment are critical in an undertaking of this scale. This allows for better patient outreach, provides support in setting up field hospitals and mobile clinics, improves patient experience, keeps vaccines and equipment safe and allows sites to run on strong and secure networks.
Despite the challenges in this monumental effort, healthcare providers should rely on the technology at their disposal to help communities navigate the complexities of this tremendous effort and ultimately overcome this immediate crisis.
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David Jirku and Ron Rotman are leaders within Cisco Canada’s healthcare practice. David Jirku is the national healthcare lead of solutions architecture at Cisco Canada. Ron Rotman is a healthcare account manager at Cisco Canada.