While many healthcare organizations are hosting large vaccination events, Cerner ITWorks℠ client Truman Medical Centers/University Health (TMC/UH) in Kansas City, Mo., is taking its vaccine deployment strategy one step further. In addition to the more than 102,700 vaccines1 they’ve administered at their two hospitals, TMC/UH staff are also taking the vaccine out into the community. Many pockets of the community are traditionally underserved and at times more skeptical of healthcare initiatives, the century-old academic medical center felt compelled to increase accessibility and convenience for its most vulnerable populations.
“Knowing our community allows us to get out and provide this vaccine,” said Hayat Abdullahi, senior director, community health strategies and innovations, Truman Medical Centers/University Health. “When you break down barriers, we reach people who otherwise might not be able to receive or simply choose to forgo the vaccine. If we wouldn't have done this, there's a possibility no one else would be serving this part of our population.”
Partnering with local churches and community centers, TMC/UH staff created mobile vaccine clinics, and uses Cerner technology to support vaccination efforts. TMC/UH staff is vaccinating as quickly as doses become available. Many vulnerable populations lack access to reliable internet connectivity or face challenges navigating the healthcare system. TMC/UH staff members are proactively reaching out to eligible consumers to schedule vaccine appointments.
“It’s all about relationships, and the Community Health Strategies and Innovations team built those over time,” said Niki Lee Donawa, chief community relations officer, Truman Medical Centers/University Health. “All I could think of was Ms. Johnson at age 89, sitting at home, without a computer, and maybe not even getting the message with instructions for what she's supposed to do. Having those relationships in place made it easier going into the pandemic and picking up the phone.”
As of April 30, 2021, TMC/UH community-based clinics administered more than 5,600 vaccinations2 to Missouri residents, and mobile sites are booked through June 2021. On average, two mobile sites vaccinate nearly 200 people per day, per site, and operate two days a week.
“We knew health disparity existed before COVID-19, but one of the coolest things Truman has is a connection to the community,” said Abdullahi. “Our job is to get out and listen. We must pinpoint trusted voices and entities, make sure we have a finger on the pulse of the community and know what they need. We understand how diverse our community is, and we mirror our team to reflect it.”
The TMC/UH team’s job was clear when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived: become visible and make sure patients receive simplified and accurate information.
The team reached out to their existing community partners to determine how many people met vaccination eligibility would be interested in receiving the vaccine at a community engagement. The response was overwhelmingly clear that they would have no problem reaching as many people as TMC/UH had vaccine for.
“We knew there would be barriers for elderly, African-Americans and individuals or people who don't speak English,” said Abdullahi. “When we call people, the voices they hear on the phone match the TMC/UH team they're going to see in the community. People started trusting us during testing. They've seen us throughout this whole pandemic, so they felt more comfortable with the vaccine.”
The technology allowed TMC/UH to create and replicate the clinic setting and strategically place them in community spaces where patients could access the vaccine.
“We couldn’t have done it without the Cerner ITWorks team,” said Abdullahi. “They provided a fast but robust training session.”
TMC/UH uses a multi-faceted approach for patients to register for vaccinations. Patients can contact a call center if they meet criteria, but there’s also a web-based waiting list.
TMC/UH staff made a conscious decision to review insurance information in near real-time with the patients, utilizing a 5G hub during the visit. The 5G hub is a network developed specifically for frontline public safety professionals that need to be able to communicate with a highly reliable network.
“It's been a well-received process, and patients are so thankful for the nurses,” said Cindy Sheets, RN, BSN, MHA, director, cardiovascular services. “We’re usually able to move them through within about 30 minutes. The network is set up so we can be out in the community and not have any major connectivity issues.”
If TMC/UH and Cerner weren’t collaborating to do this outreach, vulnerable populations may not receive the vaccine.
“We galvanize an entire health system in this area,” said Donawa. “When you think in terms of who went out to those underserved areas to do testing and then vaccinations, it wasn't other hospital systems. It was this small team. Our oldest patient so far was 106 years old, and I don't know how they would have access or be able to navigate a system to get what they need if it wasn’t for this innovative community engagement.”
1 As of April 28, 2021
2As of April 30, 2021