Monday, April 19, 2021

Make Vaccine Scheduling "Scheduler Friendly"

Every family I know has (at least) that one person who has to have the planning calendar, and that other person who keeps track of all the important documents, and that other person that they call on for healthcare related stuff, and finally, the computer geek.  And they may all reside in the same person.  One of these is very likely the COVID-19 vaccine scheduler.

As I think about how vaccines are opening up, and my own experience in Massachusetts scheduling vaccines for my family, here are some of my experiences:

  1. I have to enter the same insurance data each time for each different person I'm making an appointment for.  If only there was a standard for the layout and OCR font for insurance cards, or better yet, even a standard bar-code or QR format for insurance information, it could have made my life so much easier.

  2. I could never schedule more than one person at the same time, even if there are two or three qualifying individuals that I need to schedule for at the same time (and appointments open).  This resulted in me making 2 or 3 different appointments for a two groups of people who each had to travel over 30 minutes to a total of 5 different locations during two different enrollment periods. In one case, I fat fingered the first appointment date, which meant I had to reschedule one of the appointments, which led to a three week delay in getting a replacement appointment.
I've seen six different scheduling interfaces (four for drug-stores, two for my state public health sites), not one of them is really designed for the person in the family who does the scheduling for most of the family members.  These same changes could readily enable others who volunteer to assist others in scheduling work more efficiently.

There are balancing factors. Making it easy for one person to schedule multiple appointments at the same time and location would benefit families, but single individuals living alone would be disadvantaged by such a system.  But if there are enough vaccines (and appointments) to go around, this would be less of a problem.

We're likely going to be scheduling shots for some time yet.  We've only gotten shots into the arms of about half of the US population, and these aren't likely to be the last COVID-19 shots that have to be given.  Booster shots are expected by some vaccine manufacturers.


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