Healthcare Reform

COVID-19 Policy Recommendations: Maximizing the Role of Digital Health in Vaccine Distribution

Vaccine distribution

Digital health professionals continue to be on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis. Their expertise provides a unique perspective on the next steps required to efficiently advance a global approach to the pandemic. Maximizing the role of health information and technology in enabling evolving strategies being developed, and the value provided by these professionals in tackling COVID-19, is critical to building the post-pandemic recovery, and in particular, accelerating vaccine distribution and administration.

HIMSS and our community of digital health professionals, which includes those working in public health, primary and secondary healthcare delivery, health information exchange, health IT software development and governmental agencies, offers recommendations focused on two areas: 1) immediate actions and 2) longer-term plans on how to maximize the role of digital health in vaccine distribution and administration. Many of these ideas echo our support for actions already taken by many countries across the globe. We want to reinforce the importance of these steps and pledge our support to work with every nation, along with multinational organizations, such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO), on these activities. Our recommendations are as follows

Immediate Actions

Capitalise on Health Information and Technology and Data Systems to Support Robust, Globally Coordinated, Comprehensive COVID-19 Vaccination Plans

  • Nationally define and adopt reporting specifications and standards to be met by localities and all health system stakeholders
  • Simplify reporting submissions using an approach where data is submitted once and shared broadly across all authorized stakeholders
  • Ensure appropriate funding for vaccine distribution and administration tracking and reporting systems is a national priority
    • The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical need for a modernised, integrated public health infrastructure
    • It is essential that we integrate any approach to managing immunisations into a broader public health infrastructure that optimises data collection and local health department access to this critical data in order to manage ongoing and emergent public health crises

Exercise Regulatory Flexibilities and Enforcement Discretion to Ease Burden

  • Initiate the use of flexibilities at the regulatory and administrative levels to reduce burden related to vaccination-related processes while creating a robust preparedness program

Adopt an “All-Hands-on-Deck” Approach to Vaccine Distribution and Administration

  • Involve global organisations to better leverage existing infrastructure in broader distribution challenges ensuring equity in the access to vaccines both between and within countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries
  • Ensure national digital health systems are aligned in their collection and reporting of data and deploying with global interoperability standards and connectivity across the ecosystem
    • Reporting dashboards can be used by health authorities across the globe to inform vaccination rates as well as support public transparency efforts related to vaccination priorities and policies.
  • Position electronic health record data in the center of any response effort to inform public health decision-making
  • Promote sharing lessons learned and model practices on cross-national COVID-19 response. National planning on COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration can benefit from the experiences of other countries
    • HIMSS is able to contribute to this effort and maximise our cross-national information sharing capabilities

Emphasise the Importance of Interoperability and Data Sharing in the Broader Vaccination Effort

  • Create a national policy framework that defines a minimum data set and provides guidance about the structure of vaccination reporting requirements
  • Ensure the national policy framework is well aligned with international frameworks to facilitate cross-border use
  • Mandate all vaccination administration sites report data to a central consolidated system and query data from that central system, adhering to existing standards and standardised reporting protocols
  • Partner with relevant stakeholders to coordinate a joint communications strategy that ensures individuals have greater access to accurate COVID-19 vaccination information through the use of mobile applications and other digital technologies as well as communication media
    • Leveraging technology in developing these outreach campaigns can also enable responding to common questions about vaccines and the technology designed to monitor and track population health measures to ensure equity in vaccine uptake
    • This may also contribute to expanding the use of COVID-19 contact tracing applications, and reaffirm how an individual’s health information is protected and secured while using these technologies

Longer-Term Plans

Generate Digital Vaccination Credentials for Individuals

  • Advance standards and exchange requirements to enable individuals to digitally verify their vaccination status, ensuring that these align with international initiatives spearheaded by the European Union and WHO

Establish a Formal Feedback Loop for COVID-19 Related Tools and Technologies

  • Study the effectiveness of the tools and technologies that have been adopted and propagated across the ecosystem to tackle COVID-19 vaccinations and how to use this information to prepare and respond to future public health emergencies

Develop a National Patient Identification Strategy

  • Ensure that a national strategy for accurate information and patient identification tools is in place to support COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration

COVID-19 Global Policy Call to Action

HIMSS calls on government, businesses, civil society leaders and elected officials to recognize the important role and value of health information and technology during a health emergency and to work across industries to leverage sound health data, tools of informatics and innovative solutions outlined in our Global Policy Call to Action.

Read the Five Strategic Actions