A people-first approach to vaccine mandates: 4 lessons from Tulsa County
The Tulsa Health Department in Oklahoma has historically relied on phone calls and manual, paper-based processes to track and contain communicable diseases for its 650,000 county residents. But when COVID-19 hit, it became clear that the demands of the pandemic far outmatched the staff they had on hand. So Tulsa officials used the pandemic as an opportunity to implement new digital processes from Qualtrics.
Within the first three weeks following the launch of the new digital tools, the department saw increased participation in COVID test scheduling and contact tracing and a 21% drop in call volume — which saved staff about 116 hours of work each week.
To get there, Tulsa stood up a user-friendly COVID-19 test scheduling and reporting program in just six weeks, followed closely by a contract tracing system a month later. The new digital process allowed residents to hop online and schedule a COVID-19 test and would then send each resident a confirmation via email or text with a unique QR code.
When residents arrived at the testing location, staff used the QR code to check people in and map people’s test swab kits to their demographic information. This then enabled the health department to automate the test results so residents could access them as they were uploaded. If a test came back positive, the system automatically notified the individual and sent them a contact tracing questionnaire. If the individual didn’t respond to the questionnaire, the system would alert the department so caseworkers could follow up.
Lessons learned to help implement vaccine mandates
Recently, President Biden issued executive orders that require businesses and other organizations to mandate vaccines. This means employers will, once again, face a digital challenge they’ve never seen before: soliciting and managing large amounts of personal health information from all employees.
But it’s not the first time the pandemic has required organizations to create new systems and processes quickly. Leaders now have the opportunity to take the lessons they’ve learned from the past 18 months and use them to create better digital processes to implement vaccine mandates — ones that center on experience and foster a culture of trust.
As companies and organizations like Tulsa tackle their next big logistical hurdle of implementing vaccination attestation and weekly testing programs, here are a few lessons that may be important to remember:
Many organizations, especially those in government, found that digitizing data and replacing manual processes with automated workflows made services more accessible, convenient, and responsive. Doing so also reduced repetitive and often tedious work, freeing workers to focus on their core expertise and more complex services.
In Tulsa, the 116 hours staff saved each week were critical during surges in testing and infection rates and allowed the department to shift staff to vaccine roll-out when immunizations became available.
Implement flexible and customizable processes: Flexible and customizable solutions allow organizations to be agile and cost-effective — and don’t come with long learning curves or deployment times. Tulsa was able to repurpose the new digital tools they used for testing and contact tracing to schedule vaccines when they became available, as well as prepare for the back-to-school season.
Prioritize real-time data
Technology that offers real-time access to data helps leaders make decisions and adjustments instantly based on what’s actually happening. Tulsa was able to craft important health policies and procedures based on recent data instead of receiving research months later and trying to course-correct based on information that was no longer relevant.
Ensure equitable access
A digitized and automated solution can help leaders adjust for accessibility issues, like language. When Tulsa automated COVID-19 test scheduling and contact tracing, they offered residents three language options: English, Spanish, or Zomi — a language spoken in Burma. Using a solution that was accessible for Tulsa’s large Burmese population meant the health department was able to access significantly more people than they otherwise would have.
With new executive orders in place, companies and organizations across the country are now working to ensure their employees are vaccinated (and symptom-free) as they come back into the office. Learning from the past and creating systems that are centered on people, not process, will be key to creating a culture of safety and trust.
The Qualtrics Vaccination and Testing Manager enables organizations to securely and easily capture employee vaccination status and daily symptom checks.
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