For Sky Lakes, its main IT addition from the initiative was a hyperconverged infrastructure solution, Cisco HyperFlex. The system consolidated its previous layout of separate but integrated compute, storage and networking tiers into one scalable platform, Gaede says.
Most important, it included Cisco collaboration solutions, which meant that during the pandemic, Sky Lakes had what it needed to launch a vaccine scheduling call center. “It was 5 p.m. on a Friday when I was asked to get that up and running by Monday,” he says.
Getting a Clinic to ‘Run Like Clockwork’
Sky Lakes’ rush had to do with vaccine distribution logistics: The state would be shipping doses that week. It also had to do with the other tasks ahead, such as the work needed to set up a location where patients could be registered and shots administered.
“Everything had to run like clockwork,” Gaede says, explaining how the health system chose a spacious local community center as the venue for its vaccination clinic. “Looking back, we were really lucky we had the partnerships to make it happen.”
Working closely with Cisco, Sky Lakes quickly launched a Webex Contact Center for patient scheduling and set up a wireless network at the field site for connecting to the hospital’s electronic medical records system. Next, it turned to Stanley Healthcare, a company the hospital had previously relied on for its AeroScout real-time tracking system.
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Just before the health emergency, Gaede says, Sky Lakes had integrated AeroScout with a management tool called Cisco DNA Spaces, used primarily for asset management but also for tasks such as temperature monitoring to ensure safe storage of pharmaceuticals.
“We told Stanley we needed their ultralow-temperature probes for monitoring the vaccines,” he says. “They shipped them out, and we had them ready to go by the time we opened the clinic.”
In the end, Gaede says his team readily met its Monday call center deadline. Sky Lakes didn’t miss a beat between receiving its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from the state and administering the first dose to a patient. Soon, the health system was seeing several thousand calls per day, and its mass vaccination campaign was underway.
“We just tried to make the process as easy as possible for the community,” he says of the health system’s efforts.
“We still have a long way to go,” Gaede adds, noting that the region’s COVID-19 cases were climbing as of June, “but we’re glad we were able to get off to a good start.”
The ‘Backbone’ of Vaccine Delivery
As the vaccine rollout across the U.S. gathered momentum earlier this year, Gaede’s team at Sky Lakes was hardly alone in its efforts. Hospital IT departments everywhere were enlisted for the rollout because they had the tools and technological know-how to succeed in an operation of this scale.
At UCHealth in Colorado, vaccination delivery models have ranged from community clinics to a drive-thru mass vaccination site. The organization knew from the start that technology and innovation would play key roles in the campaign.
“The approach we took was to embed technology in every single step of the process, and then we used every person we had available to the highest level of their capability,” says Dr. Richard Zane, chief innovation officer at UCHealth in Aurora, Colo.
With that in mind, Zane says, the “backbone” of the vaccination program included its EMR system, IT professionals and his team at the UCHealth CARE Innovation Center.