How Google Cloud has been helping states with their COVID-19 vaccinations

On Monday, Google Cloudrevealed the role it had played in five states’ mass vaccination initiatives and announced that it would be working with more in the months to come.  

According to a blog post by Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian, Arizona, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon and Virginia have partnered with the company to support their vaccination efforts at scale. Mike Daniels, VP of global public sector at Google Cloud, told Healthcare IT News the company’s efforts are “designed to be flexible to the needs of public health departments at all levels of government.”  

WHY IT MATTERS  

As the vaccine rollout has picked up speed throughout the country, states have turned to a wide variety of strategies to get as many shots in arms as possible.

Daniels noted that Google Cloud’s Intelligent Vaccine Impact (IVI) technology has played a role in many of those strategies.  

“A state, for example, can implement a state-wide registration system where providers can sign up to be part of the clinical network, or that state can implement a registration system focused on state-run public health clinics and facilities,” Daniels said.

“A city can implement a lightweight information portal to provide up-to-date information to community members on a website that is, by design, capable of scaling with increases in visits from residents,” he continued.

“Through our Healthcare API, we are able to plug our solution into various systems that exist today,” Daniels added.

According to Kurian, in December 2020, Google Cloud and its partner MTX built an end-to-end vaccine management distribution system that would allow Arizona’s four million citizens to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine.   

The tool provides counties and tribes with a consistent approach to monitoring the vaccine-administration process, and forecasts the trajectory of the virus via predictive analytics. In the first two hours of the site launch, the system reportedly booked more than 150,000 appointments.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, Google Cloud helped launch a preregistration system that enables residents to complete an online form with their personal details, contact information and eligibility criteria. When appointments become available, residents receive text messages, emails or voicemails alerting them to sign up within 24 hours.

North Carolina in late January announced the Find a Vaccine Location site powered by Google Maps Platform APIs to allow users to search by ZIP code, current location or current map view. Residents can also use the Find My Vaccine Group site to determine their eligibility.  

Similarly, the Oregon Health Authority partnered with Google Cloud and data-insight platform Spring ML to build a vaccine-eligibility screening and scheduling tool to help residents determine their eligibility for the vaccine and receive push notifications as their eligibility status changes.

“OHA and Google Cloud have also partnered with local healthcare providers, who can now share information on mass vaccination events in their local communities. Eligible Oregonians in those communities will automatically receive a notification that there is an event, and they then have the opportunity to schedule a vaccine appointment,” wrote Kurian.  

In Virginia, the Department of Health asked Google Cloud and SpringML to build a site that imported previously collected preregistration data to allow users from participating localities to find their information in the system. By the end of February, Kurian said, the state was managing more than 1.9 million records in the new system with Google Cloud’s IVI.

Daniels said the company was “actively working” with other states to implement the IVI solutions.  

With regard to equity – which is still lacking in many states’ COVID-19 response – he said, “We’re working closely with states to design solutions that can be tailored to the unique needs of the population. This includes understanding how local communities feel about the risks and benefits with sentiment analysis, part of our Intelligent Vaccine Impact solutions.

“Our solution also includes a functionality that allows citizens who don’t have access to the Internet or don’t have the necessary tech skills, like some senior citizens, to sign up for a vaccine appointment via a website,” he added. “Our virtual agent solution can deploy chat, phone calls and text messages with multilingual support.  

“This helps public health officials communicate with all residents, despite access to technology, and increases vaccine equity.”

THE LARGER TREND  

Despite the long lead time, many states have struggled with their vaccine rollouts.  

Glitches, downtime and crashes have sparked frustration for residents, particularly those without consistent broadband access or access to technology. 

This has led individuals in some areas to get creative in their spare time – including in Massachusetts, where a developer for athenahealth launched a vaccine website shortly before the state released its own.   

ON THE RECORD  

“Google Cloud is committed to doing our part to stop the spread of the virus and get vaccines to more people quickly,” wrote Kurian.

“We look forward to continuing to work with state and local governments, public health officials and healthcare institutions to provide the scalable, secure infrastructure, applications and services needed to support a safer, healthier future for everyone.”

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: kjercich@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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