By Isaac Constans
In the fight against COVID-19, state and local governments have made every effort to carefully coordinate every move – from finding available vaccine sites to tracking cases to disseminating public messages. The goal is for everyone to be on the same page, with a single-minded focus on a mission that must be accomplished.
Governments have joined forces with external agencies and private companies, communicating through modern integrated systems and correlating data to best make decisions. The technical and technological approach has grown in stride with the public health response.
And although there has been a big learning curve, tech has proved vital in supporting efforts to track the spread and impact of COVID-19 and to distribute vaccines across the U.S.
However, tech’s job is to enable the important work that people are doing. Human decisions are making the critical difference: delivering doses, executing on coordination efforts and, ultimately, making the final decisions.
So how can technology best assist state and local agencies in their response and the vaccine rollout? Governments need solutions, with several attributes.
First, the solution must be highly analytical. It needs to bring together multiple factors and create a sort of decision matrix that gives people the utmost confidence in the governments’ choices.
Second, it must be agile. It must adapt to new policies and mandates, as well as swings in cases, such as when new strains hit the U.S.
Third, it must be reliable, accurate and responsive. It needs to be there for employees when they need it, with actionable information on any device. Employees, from senior-level management to frontline workers, also need to be able to access real-time information and take action on it.
Fourth, and finally, the solution must deliver a quality user experience at scale for the last-mile delivery. It needs functionality around COVID-specific use cases, like follow-up vaccine appointments and eligibility tracking in accordance with rapidly changing laws.
Let’s look at an example of a state government that’s smartly woven technology into its responses.
In January, North Carolina began work that would help residents access vaccines – and vaccine information – quickly and easily. The state understood that people had questions about vaccines, knowing whether they were eligible, when they could qualify, and where they could get one.
North Carolina quickly activated two projects: Find My Vaccine Group gave residents an easy way to submit information about occupation, age and risk factors to determine whether they were eligible for a vaccine. If they were, then they could go to the Find a Vaccine Location website, where they could search by map, current location or zip code to find the nearest distribution centers — all with up-to-date information.
Behind the scenes, the state aggregated, analyzed and indexed data to get that information online and available. Specifically, the state stored data from other governments and private partners and used artificial intelligence to match people to a vaccine group, then guide them to a vaccine distribution center.
North Carolina accomplished this with the help of Google Cloud solutions, including its Intelligent Vaccine Impact solution. The tool brought three main features:
- A case tracker, which lets the state see hotbeds and test hypotheticals
- Sentiment analytics, which includes measuring vaccine hesitancy
- And last-mile delivery, which encompasses everything from putting the Find a Vaccine Location online using Google Maps to automatically scheduling follow-ups for people, assigning them to the right location and vaccine.
Many state and local governments have found that a central hub for their vaccine efforts is helpful for residents to have a single source for information. In Colorado, Eagle County made use of virtual agents to answer questions and integrate information online through Google Maps.
But ultimately, agencies need to keep timely delivery and constituent experience in mind. By bringing cutting-edge technology into the equation, agencies can bring innovative approaches to their response to strengthen community health.
This article is an excerpt from GovLoop Academy’s course, “Delivering Vaccines Intelligently With Integrated Systems.” Access the full course here.