The vaccination connection

You need a dynamic solution to manage a dynamic situation. Here’s how to speed vaccine management with the help of digital workflows.


The COVID-19 vaccination rollout is here. And it’s giving me flashbacks to my hazy first days of parenthood.

Hear me out.

When you’re expecting a child, you spend every waking moment focusing on how the baby is developing. Then the baby arrives, and you realize you spent your time fixating on the wrong thing. Your obsession with sonograms disappears, only to be replaced by an overwhelming feeling of unpreparedness for what comes next.

My sense is that the vaccine-making process followed a similar trajectory.

In the frenzied race to develop the vaccine, we failed to plan for the massive task at hand once the code was cracked. Lack of federal planning aside, the question remains: What’s next now that the baby has arrived?

Administrative nightmare

For healthcare providers, the challenges are multifold.

Held hostage by an uncertain supply chain, they must rapidly manage the vaccination process, administering the right doses to the right people at the right time. It’s an administrative nightmare made worse by issues familiar to anyone with experience in large organizations; namely, an over-reliance on slow, manual processes and complicated, disconnected systems.

I’m no healthcare expert, but my 30 years in the technology industry have given me a keen eye for inefficient processes and unwieldy systems. And what I find encouraging is that the same solutions we use to streamline IT and business operations can be applied to vaccine distribution.

It all comes down to a concept I call the connected enterprise.

The last mile of vaccine distribution

To understand the connected enterprise, consider the “last mile” challenge of vaccine distribution.

Getting shot into arms involves multiple departments with specific functions, capabilities, systems, and applications. In New York City, for instance, there are dozens of vaccination centers, yet city systems don’t talk to state systems or to those of participating urgent-care providers. As a result, eligible individuals must check dozens of websites, each with its own sign-up protocol.

Meanwhile, too many healthcare organizations depend on email for patient communications and static spreadsheets to track vaccination supply. Without real-time insight into the doses and appointments available, the potential for error is huge.

You can’t manage a dynamic situation with a static solution.

A better path forward

We can—indeed, we must—do better.

In Scotland, the National Health Service is fast deploying digital workflows to integrate and digitize the entire vaccine administration process. And while while some hiccups are inevitable to such a large-scale effort, this connected approach facilitated the scheduling of 200,000 vaccination appointments within the first 12 hours of the NHS’s citizen portal rollout.

The technology, which is part of ServiceNow’s Vaccine Administration Management solution, also connects front-end patient engagement with back-end inventory systems, so providers can manage appointment availability, send reminders, contact eligible population segments, and otherwise wrangle the end-to-end vaccine administration process from one central platform.

The efficiency gains are such that Scotland plans to vaccinate its entire population within three months, as workflows enable the quick provision of care at a time when saving minutes can mean saving lives.

Building a connected enterprise

Business leaders can learn from the NHS’s accomplishments.

NHS Scotland has created a workflow-powered process that integrates technology stacks, eliminates information silos, and enable work to proceed effortlessly—no spreadsheets or switching between disparate systems.

Corporations similarly consist of multiple departments with specific capabilities, systems, and tools. These individual technology stacks are often quite sophisticated, complicating efforts to share data and collaborate between departments.

This makes relatively straightforward tasks like new hire onboarding needlessly convoluted. When technology stacks can’t communicate across departments, people can’t get to work and productivity plummets.

A connected enterprise breaks down departmental barriers, so work flows naturally across the organization. While a new hire’s journey may start with HR, for instance, the recruiting team can easily workflow tasks, paperwork, and data to finance, legal, and IT. This connectivity boosts productivity, increases visibility, and dramatically improves the employee experience.

When workflows connect people and processes, organizations can move faster and make smarter decisions. And in the public health domain, the rewards are far, far greater.

This post originally appeared on Forbes BrandVoice