As a difficult year comes to a close, the first COVID-19 vaccines are a powerful new advancement in the fight against the SARS-Cov-2 virus. The logistical requirements of scheduling and administering two doses of the vaccine to each person necessitate a massive nationwide undertaking that must be done with precision to be most effective. Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are taking an innovative approach to this challenge by coordinating the effort using their electronic patient record.
“This is the first step of many toward ending the greatest public health challenge of our lifetimes,” said Afzal Chaudhry, MD, CUH’s Director of Digital, Chief Clinical Information Officer & Consultant Nephrologist. “The team caring for a patient can see the medical record in its entirety, wherever and whenever they need to, which is critical as we begin our vaccination programme.”
CUH recently became the first organisation in the UK to reach Stage 7, the highest level of digital maturity according to the HIMSS Analytics international Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM). Clinicians and staff across its hospitals share the same integrated EPR, so information entered at the front desk, by a pharmacist, or on the hospital ward is automatically visible in a single system to everyone who needs it to coordinate the patient’s care. CUH is using its Epic EPR to:
- Plan for vaccine availability. The vaccine vials are carefully stored in ultra-cold freezers. Reports allow clinicians to see ahead of time how many patients are receiving a vaccine so they can thaw enough vials without waste.
- Schedule critical second doses. Patients need two doses of the vaccine at the appropriate time intervals; for example, for the approved Pfizer vaccine, a second dose is required 21 days after the first to reach full 95% effectiveness. Staff are prompted to schedule both appointments at once to simplify follow-up later.
- Send important data to the NHS. Information such as who was vaccinated and which vials of the vaccine were used is vital for tracking the nationwide public health effort.
- Identify priority patient populations. As more vaccines become available, clinicians will prioritise patients as directed by the NHS, such as by age or occupation, using data in the health record.
This centralised approach by CUH supports the efforts of the NHS’s public health programme to end COVID-19 in the UK.