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Client Story 2021-3-23

Northern Light Health vaccinates patients using Cerner technology, collaboration

by Cerner Corporation

Published on 3/23/2021

When Northern Light Health staff learned of vaccine approval, they envisioned it as a turning point in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We looked to Cerner as our partner for the technology to support our people, and processes,” said April Giard, DNP, MSN, NP-BC, NEA-BC, vice president and chief information officer. “We asked how they could help respond and take care of our own. Cerner responded, ‘We’re right there with you, we've got a workflow, and will work together to develop a mass vaccine strategy.’”

The Brewer, Maine, health system utilizes a workflow that leverages both critical clinical resources and administrative resources effectively for their respective components.

“We're able to staff the check-in role with anyone who volunteers, including our chief human resource officer,” said Ben Isenhour, regional chief information officer and vice president of data and integration. “We're able to leverage our staff in an amazing way by having that separation of clinical and non-clinical roles. Cerner is open to working with us behind the scenes to pinpoint any challenges and help us with solutions.”

More than 90% of inventory is being administered to community members, which is above the national average. Northern Light Health’s throughput with this process, along with the difficult logistical work by operations staff is responsible for that.

“When we started, some sites used the standard clinical workflow,” said Isenhour. “People got used to that and were happy with what they had.” Then, Northern Light Health organized their first large scale mass vaccination site at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Maine using the Cerner Mass Vaccination (Mass Vacc) technology and workflow.

Maine Governor Janet Mills and Nirav Shah, MD, JD, director of the Maine CDC, have acknowledged Northern Light Health’s vaccine distribution as a vital component to the state’s ability to control the pandemic.

“Through some careful leadership, we continued to work with our hospital leaders and invite them to the Cross Insurance Center to see Mass Vacc in action. It was night and day once they saw it, and they ended up adopting it,” said Isenhour.

The average throughput from when a patient shows up, checks in, and gets vaccinated has been efficient.

“The actual contact time is in the low 20-minute range,” said James Douglas, D.O., regional medical information officer. “That includes a lengthy walk, 15-minute recovery time, and the immunization process, which includes helping our older patients take off their jackets.”

When scheduling, patient sign-up is straightforward. The state notifies Northern Light Health late in the week prior about the number of doses to expect the following week. They find that out just in time from the federal government, let operational leaders know what's coming, and staff gets their plan together at the vaccination sites around the system.

Appointments release on Monday and Wednesday afternoons, allowing the registration team to complete registration within the Cerner platform.

“At that point, we're completely using Cerner,” said Isenhour. “It's our source of record for clinical data. We've built interfaces between Cerner and the state immunization registry that meet the requirement to document within 24 hours of administration. This is also a reorder mechanism for the second doses for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.”

Since the scheduling capability allows patients to see appointment availability online, people from all over Maine travel many miles and stay in hotels to receive the vaccination.

“We're happy from a population health standpoint; we’re taking care of our state’s most vulnerable,” said Giard. “During a pandemic, when you have clinical leadership so comfortable working side by side with our informatics leadership and our IT leadership, the sky's the limit. This is a perfect case of how it should work, and it was done in such a short amount of time that it's really the model for everybody.”

As of mid-March 2021, Northern Light Health distributed more than 104,000 vaccinations.2

Northern Light Health vaccinated more than 4,300 people across all locations on a single day, including more than 2,100 at its high-volume clinic at the Cross Insurance Center.

“This was the most we have done as a health system in one day, and the most we’ve done at the Cross Insurance Center, so it was big news for us,” said James Jarvis, MD, physician leader for Incident Command, Northern Light Health, and director, Clinical Education, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center.

COVID-19 Vaccine Monitoring Dashboards from Cerner provide analytics for vaccine administration. Northern Light Health is also a testing partner for the social determinants of health social vulnerability index dashboard, and staff would like to leverage both to help address vaccine equity.

“You can look down to the ZIP codes and understand the vulnerabilities,” said Giard. “You can search by chronic illnesses or anything else. We’ve asked Cerner to link vaccination data to the social determinants of health dashboards because we want to know about testing and vaccination rates. We are concerned about the most vulnerable Maine population, and we need to see how that looks and where they’re located.”

Northern Light Health and Cerner staff learned productive ways to work together during this trying time, and there is more work left.

For more information about best practices for COVID-19: Vaccine Preparedness, visit our Model Experience page.

1 "Percent of Delivered First Vaccine Doses Administered by U.S. States and Territories," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 15, 2021,

2 Pulled using HealtheIntent®