EMR Scheduling: Managing Online Appointments with Ease

Appointment scheduling is incredibly important for your medical practice, as it keeps your schedule full and regulated, maximizing ROI.

To simplify practice management, you’ll want to select an appointment management software that integrates with your electronic medical record (EMR) or practice management system (PMS) to deliver an exceptional patient experience that converts more appointments.

To help you decide whether EMR-integrated scheduling is right for you, we’ll explain what an EMR scheduler is, the most common features, and benefits, and how to choose the best EMR scheduling software for your practice.

First, let’s look at what an EMR scheduler is, the key features of an EMR scheduler, and the benefits of using an EMR scheduling system in your medical clinic, pharmacy, or health team.

What is an EMR Scheduler?

An EMR scheduling system or EMR scheduler is a solution that integrates directly with an EMR system (OSCAR, Telus PS Suite, Accuro / QHR, etc.) for easy access to patient information. In the healthcare industry, professionals rely on EMR software to ensure patient information is accurate and up-to-date, playing an important role in care and treatment.

Automating the appointment booking process takes the administration burden off clinical teams, improves outcomes for patients, and produces notable cost savings for clinicians. Connecting your online patient scheduler to your EMR or PMS system saves hours duplicating contacts, schedules, and appointments and allows your team to work with the tool they already use to manage appointments.

Key Features of an EMR Scheduler

There is a myriad of online scheduling solutions available, but many of them are not designed for healthcare professionals and do not take specific patient workflows into consideration or integrate with EMR systems.

Some practices have adopted non-medical booking systems that are low cost or free to find that they create more work as the admin staff must manage two calendars and manually enter data from one system to another.

When choosing an appointment scheduling system for your practice, there are a few key features you need to consider to centralize treatment, bookings, and task management:

Practice management: Organize your practice information, including patient details, inventory, and more so that it can easily be managed and accessed by any staff member.

Online scheduling: Allow your staff to book appointments for patients. A good EMR scheduler will allow patients to book or manage their own appointments through a user-friendly, online portal. 

Patient communication: Supports single or two-way communication with patients, helping you engage with patients, gain valuable feedback, and fill missed appointments. 

Appointment reminders: Automatically send email or SMS appointment reminders, ensuring patients are aware of upcoming appointments, and reducing cancellations and no-shows.

Benefits of using an EMR appointment scheduling solution

Appointment schedulers with EMR integration offer many benefits to the practices and practitioners who use them while boosting productivity and streamlining workflows by automating and simplifying tasks. Here are a handful of the key benefits below:

Re-invest staff time: Focus your efforts on business-boosting activities such as healthcare marketing, patient engagement, referrals, and more with EMR scheduling. Your staff will save time and effort managing appointments by having the information available when they need it.

Automate processes: Eliminate the tedious task of manually entering appointments. By automating the booking process with EMR integration, your patients will experience a seamless and satisfying care experience from the start. Your practice will have access to up-to-date data when they need it most.

Seamless data integration: Scheduling software with EMR integration makes it easier for practices to schedule appointments with the right practitioner at the right time, ensuring timely treatment. 

Better care preparation: With EMR readily accessible through your appointment scheduler, practitioners can view patient details quickly and easily and can properly prepare for their day ahead or incoming patients. 

Mobile access to physician schedule: With schedules available online, medical practitioners can access their schedule and patient details remotely, whenever they need to. This helps them better prepare for the day or a patient’s appointment, improving care delivery and the patient experience.

Patient messaging: EMR integration allows for more accurate and secure messaging with patients, including automated appointment reminders and follow-ups, waitlist management, and reducing appointment no-shows and cancellations. 
Patients have access to their data: Online appointment scheduling typically allows patients to access and manage their schedules online via a mobile app, web portal, or cloud service. This empowers patients in their scheduling and throughout their health journey.

What should you consider when choosing an appointment scheduling solution?

Healthcare professionals are experiencing an increase in their workload and more pressure to adopt new technologies brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. A patient scheduling system is a way to relieve some of the stress.

Allowing your patients to schedule their own appointments will save your administrative team time and effort, while also improving the user experience for your patients. 

However, choosing an appointment scheduling system for your practice is no easy fleet. There is a myriad of online scheduling solutions available, but many of them are not designed for healthcare. Below, we highlight some things to consider when investing in an online appointment scheduling system.

Usability:

  • Does the solution integrate directly with your clinic’s EMR so staff don’t have to manage and update multiple schedules?
  • Does the solution have the flexibility to integrate with any EMR or PMS system to avoid discrepancies in the future?
  • Does the solution update in real-time to avoid scheduling errors?
  • Can patients or caregivers book appointments online themselves without staff intervention?
  • Can patients or caregivers view and manage their own appointments through an app, web portal or another interface?
  • Can staff and users easily make updates about appointment types, number of appointments, operating hours or practitioner schedules?

Patient communication: 

  • Do patients receive an automatic message when they book or cancel an appointment?
  • Does the solution provide the ability to create customizable notifications for different appointments? I.e. to include appointment-specific information or forms.
  • Can patients cancel, confirm or re-book their appointments from the appointment confirmation email?
  • Does the solution allow staff to send post-appointment follow-up messages with various communications such as appointment surveys?

Booking logic:

  • Can you define different appointment types and duration for patients to book the appropriate appointment?
  • Does the solution automatically update any changes in the EMR with your booking schedule (i.e. flu shot clinics or provider vaccination schedules)?
  • Does the solution allow you to restrict specific booking types, time frames or schedules?
  • Can you customize the online booking experience to screen for certain requirements or collect patient information at booking?
  • Can you prevent bookings based on a patient’s response to screening questions?
  • Can you create an automatic waitlist which notifies patients when/if a timeslot becomes available?
  • Can the online booking system automatically collect consent and update the patient’s chart accordingly?

Online Appointment Scheduling with EMPOWER Health

Appointment scheduling with EMR integration allows your team to streamline workflows, automate administrative tasks, and simplify the booking process, improving productivity and output. It can significantly improve booking success, reduce no-shows and cancellations, maximizing ROI. With a simplified setup and a single API for healthcare, you can easily connect and synchronize your electronic medical record (EM) and appointment scheduling. 

Learn more about how EMPOWER Health’s online booking solution can be customized for Clinics, Pharmacies & Ontario Health Teams.

If you’re ready to make appointment management easier book your free demo.

Digital Health in 2022: Data, Trends, and Opportunities

The COVID-19 pandemic shifted healthcare models and propelled digital solutions into mainstream healthcare. Canadians are demanding user-friendly online solutions from the healthcare industry – with the expectation that it will prevail long after the pandemic ends.

More than ever, patients are being proactive about preventive care, more willing to change doctors if unsatisfied with care or customer service, feel more comfortable using technology to improve/maintain personal health, and using tools/ratings to find the best quality of care and customer service.

It’s clear that virtual care is more than just a trend; It’s here to stay. It will continue to evolve and play an important role in how the public access and receive care.

Experts predict that in a decade from now, healthcare, as we know it today, will no longer exist. So, how can health teams, networks and professionals cater to the growing needs of healthcare consumers? What has changed over the past two years that has caused such a dramatic shift towards telehealth? What does healthcare in Canada look like now, and in the future?

See what experts say about the future of healthcare in Canada, why telehealth will be increasingly important post-pandemic, and what patients look for in a provider in EMPOWER Health’s infographic, Digital Health: Data, Trends, and Opportunities.

Open the door to a streamlined, coordinated health experience.

Empowering patients across the spectrum of their healthcare interactions are made possible
through a central digital front door to the healthcare system like EMPOWER Health.

EMPOWER Health is a personalized online appointment booking platform and health service directory that
To see how EMPOWER Health’s EMR-integrated Online Appointment Booking can help your healthcare organization get through the digital front door click here.


To learn more about how COVID-19 has changed the healthcare industry and how health teams can succeed in this new digital landscape, download our free white paper:

Key Steps to Unlocking Your Digital Front Door

Hoping to Travel for the Holidays?

This is what you need to know about the standardized Proof of Vaccination for travel in Canada

On October 21st, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the implementation of a standardized Canadian COVID-19 proof of vaccination for travel. But what does this mean for Canadian travellers?

The information given below is subject to change in the coming months. Please visit travel.gc.ca for the latest information on travel policies in Canada.

In order to qualify as a fully vaccinated Canadian traveller, you must:

  • have received at least 2 doses of Government of Canada-accepted COVID-19 vaccines or at least 1 dose of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine
  • have received your second dose at least 2 weeks before you enter Canada
  • upload your proof of vaccination in ArriveCAN
  • have no signs or symptoms of COVID-19
  • meet all other entry requirements (for example, pre-entry test result)

If you are qualified as a fully vaccinated Canadian traveller you are still:

  • Required to show a pre-entry molecular test
  • Required to use ArriveCAN
  • Required to take an arrival test if selected

Currently, all Canadian travellers above the age of 12 are being asked to show their proof of vaccination in order to board planes, trains, and cruise ships in Canada (Burke, 2021). Additionally, all travellers returning to Canada must show proof of a negative molecular COVID-19 test upon their arrival. Canadians who are looking to travel overseas will also be required to follow the protocols of the country and airline they are using, which may involve additional testing and/or an isolation period (Burke, 2021). 

According to Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, if you have not received 2 doses of Canadian-government approved vaccines by the end of November, you will not be eligible to board a plane or train in Canada–though limited exceptions will be made, it will only apply for emergencies and designated remote communities (Burke, 2021).

“Canadians have done their part by getting vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect themselves, their families, and their communities. As new vaccine requirements roll out for travellers, we are working to ensure that those who travel have access to a reliable, secure way to demonstrate their COVID-19 vaccinations, both at home and abroad. We will continue to work with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners so this standardized proof is available across Canada.”

  • The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

References

Burke, A. (2021). Getting on a plane today? here’s what you need to know about new vaccination requirements | CBC News. CBCnews. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/transport-canada-announcement-vaccine-requirements-travel-1.6229829.

Government of Canada. (2021). Covid-19 vaccinated travellers entering Canada. Travel restrictions in Canada – Travel.gc.ca. https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/covid-vaccinated-travellers-entering-canada.

Bairavie Piravakaran (she/her) is a second-year undergraduate at the University of Toronto Scarborough. As a Psychological & Health Sciences student, she values the importance of sharing credible information and making health resources more accessible to the public. Her interests in population health, research, and design are also reflected in her non-academic pursuits—she currently volunteers with the Young Leaders of Public Health and Medicine (YLPHM) as a Social Media Manager for the Scarborough Chapter and is a Health Promotion & Analytics Member at Critical Health Innovations Lab (CHIL). At EMPOWER Health, Bairavie works closely with the Marketing Team in order to plan and execute strategies that help inform the public about current health-related topics.

MyVaccines.ca Makes it Easy for Canadians to Find and Book Their Next Vaccination

Toronto, ON: EMPOWER Health, a Canadian digital health innovator launches MyVaccines.ca – a national vaccine locator to help Canadians find and book any type of vaccine in Canada. This is EMPOWER Health’s 6th year running a vaccine locator & booking website where last year focused on only flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines, and this year expands to all vaccines.  The map-based directory allows users to search and book a vaccination appointment at any public health clinic, pharmacy, primary care clinic, drive-thru clinic, and mass vaccination clinic in their region. 

To add to the convenience, users can sign-up to join a waitlist for a specific location, group of locations, or a region, and be notified when any clinic has vaccines available. They can also use the platform to search for other healthcare services, view operating hours, and find providers who speak their language, and even find family doctors accepting new patients.

MyVaccines.ca makes vaccinations easy for clinics as well. It’s the fastest and simplest way to let the community know what vaccines your clinic has available. With advanced features like simplified vaccine inventory management, multi-dose scheduling, automatic email reminders and centralized wait-lists, managing vaccination appointments is a breeze.

MyVaccines.ca stems from an Ontario-wide pilot project the company launched during the 2020-2021 flu season. EMPOWER Health partnered with Immunize Canada to support access to flu shots through MyFluShot.ca – a vaccine locator that showed vaccine inventory and availability information for over 6,500 healthcare organizations across Ontario, which led to over 100,000 appointments booked and many stories from seniors who were able to use the tool to easily find high dose flu shots at a time of scarcity.

The vaccines available on the platform include the COVID-19 vaccine, Influenza (Flu) vaccine, Herpes Zoster (Shingles) vaccine and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Through MyVaccines.ca, the company hopes to improve healthcare navigation of the whole system and help bridge the gaps between vaccination access and delivery in Canada. 

“The vision with MyVaccines.ca is to have vaccine availability and inventory information from all vaccinators across Canada, and to help all Canadians find and book their next vaccination with ease.” said Dr. Ryan Doherty, President & Founder of EMPOWER Health. “This is a coordinated effort by healthcare professionals, networks and the public to help us build on this vision and make it as easy as possible for everyone to access public health programs while also helping healthcare professionals deliver quality care.”

In the past, EMPOWER Health has partnered with Immunize Canada, Asthma Canada, Canada’s National Institute of Ageing (NIA) and other international partners to support all stakeholders of the Canadian healthcare system through vaccine distribution and public awareness/access to vaccines.

About EMPOWER Health: EMPOWER Health is a digital health innovator that is transforming how patients navigate and access healthcare in Canada. Through their own platforms and partner initiatives, they are on a mission to empower all stakeholders of the healthcare sector.

During the past decade, EMPOWER Health has been supporting the Canadian healthcare system by implementing national registries, patient navigation websites/apps and online appointment booking infrastructure that powers initiatives focused on equitable access to healthcare services across primary care, acute care, pharmacy, and public health.

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EMPOWER Health launches MyVaccines.ca – a national vaccine locator to help Canadians find and book any type of vaccine in Canada.

myflushot

Lessons Learned from the 2020-2021 Ontario-wide Pilot

Lessons Learned from the 2020-2021 Ontario-wide Pilot

During the peak period of Canada’s 2020-2021 flu shot distribution, demand for influenza vaccines was higher than expected. Many people were hoping to be vaccinated to avoid having symptoms and the potential for a serious enough case to be hospitalized during an expected second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The combined effect of higher than anticipated demand along with vaccine distribution delays resulted in many vaccination clinics being short on supply, leading to busy phone lines, long line-ups, overworked staff, and frustrated patients. 

But vaccine access wasn’t evenly impacted.  Some healthcare organizations had supply of influenza vaccines but very little traffic or interest from their local community, leading to a mismatch of demand and supply in many areas.

We saw behaviour similar to what happened during the COVID vaccine rollout, where people were searching for flu vaccines and in some cases going well out of their way to be vaccinated.  

During 2020, we ran an Ontario wide campaign called MyFluShot.ca, in partnership with Immunize Canada, to encourage providers to provide greater transparency to real time vaccine availability inventory.  We had 3,439 participating pharmacies and 1,342 participating medical clinics who signed up to provide their flu vaccine availability and inventory data.  That data was presented to patients on our health services locator, specifically filtered to show locations offering flu shots.  

Over that time we had over 3 million searches for flu vaccines on our platform.  A post user survey of 1277 users found that 92% had found a flu vaccine through MyFluShot.ca. 47% had used the waitlist / notification feature, a unique ability we built into the platform for users to be added to a waitlist and be notified when a flu vaccine was available at their desired location. 84% mentioned they would use the platform again during the next Flu season.  One user in particular comes to mind who was looking for a high dose flu vaccine for her and husband, and finding none in her local community found a location 80 KMs away and booked an appointment for her and her spouse. It made her feel very relieved that they were able to do this without a lot of hassle (except for a drive). 

Increase Transparency

We learned during the pilot that increasing transparency reduced patient frustration when demand exceeded supply.  Waitlists and email communications are vital when managing expectations of potential patients.  As with any new tool, there is a learning curve for some users, and we gained some valuable feedback as to how to make the process easier for users.  

From provider based to regional based waitlists. 

We learned that many patients looking for vaccinations are flexible to where they receive it, and like Covid vaccinations, many patients were putting themselves on multiple locations’ waitlists.  This creates an inefficiency for the whole system.  To address this, we’ve built into MyVaccines a regional waitlist.  A patient can sign up for a vaccination waitlist for a specific location, group of locations, or a region, and be notified when any provider has vaccinations available.  We expect this to further optimize demand and supply of vaccinations in the future and make the lives of healthcare organization administrators easier as they don’t have to manually remove patients from waitlists who’ve gotten their vaccination somewhere else. It will also save the patients time as they don’t have to appointment shop at dozens of locations. 

Adopt Technology Faster 

Patients want an easy path to get vaccinated.  The easier it is, the more likely we are to having more equitable vaccination access.  Technology, or lack thereof, is a barrier.  Having patients trying to call multiple healthcare providers when their time is limited, and / or have language barriers or have accessibility issues can prevent them having timely access to vaccines.  With the use of technology that allows them to search, join a waitlist, and book appointments when vaccines are available makes vaccinations easier to access.  Healthcare organizations have typically been slower to adopt new technologies, but are moving faster to add these services to their practice. 

Changing is always more challenging in healthcare due to the higher risk involved in managing sensitive information and protecting patient health records. Yet the time is right for the adoption of these types of tools to accelerate. 

Release Notes, October 2021

Vaccine Inventory Management 2.0, Advanced Email Reminders, MyVaccines.ca Launch and More!

Welcome to the first issue of EMPOWER Health’s monthly Release Notes. This month, we have several new features to share, along with some exciting news for healthcare organizations. (MyVaccines.ca Launched September 1st with more features added monthly!)

Vaccine Inventory Management 2.0

One of the challenges our pharmacy clients encountered last year with Flu and COVID-19 vaccinations was limited supply.  Normally, booking logic for online appointment booking tools take into account time and practitioner availability.  But many of them had to limit the number of appointments they could take due to limited inventory and had to do this manually.  

The advancement of our inventory management now directly ties it into our online booking system and can not only display your ability to deliver vaccines on our locator, but limit the number of bookings based on your supply automatically.  

We’ve also tied the data into our waitlist management system. If you have no more vaccine inventory, the patients can go on your waitlist. If you have new stock, it can automatically trigger notices to patients on the waitlist about new availability. 

All of these enhancements are designed to reduce the amount of manual time required to manage vaccination appointments by putting real time information in the hands of the patients. 

As a helpful addition, we’ve also included online resources and information about vaccines and vaccine preventable diseases – available to both patients and practitioners. Some of these resources include the CARD system, a vaccine hesitancy support guide for patients and practitioners.

New Online Booking Features

New online appointment booking features make it easier for healthcare professionals to customize the booking process to fit the unique needs of their organization. Now, EMPOWER Health users can easily add customizable checkboxes and fields to online appointment booking pages and processes, such as for pre-booking, on-booking and post-booking.

Healthcare professionals have the ability to add a “who are you booking for” field on the booking page so users can book appointments for others. This is useful for a caregiver booking an appointment for a companion or a caretaker booking an appointment for a minor.

Another tool which will become valuable for clinics and pharmacies administering vaccines during the 2021-2022 flu season is the ability to automatically schedule appointments for primer and booster doses and other vaccines. If a patient needs a follow-up appointment, it can be automatically scheduled on a future date.  If a patient has to rebook an appointment, they can do so directly on the platform, eliminating the need for patients to call the office and play phone tag with administrative staff to manage their appointments.

New Centralized Waitlist System

We learned that many patients looking for vaccinations are flexible to where they receive it, and like COVID19 vaccinations, many patients were putting themselves on multiple locations’ waitlists. This creates an inefficiency for the whole system. To address this, we’ve built into the EMPOWER Health locator a regional and location-specific waitlist feature.

Starting September 1st, anyone can sign-up to a vaccination waitlist for a specific location, group of locations, or a region, and be notified when any organization has vaccinations available. If someone received their vaccination somewhere else, the system will automatically cancel the other appointments and notify the organizations. We expect this to make the lives of healthcare organization administrators easier as they don’t have to manually remove patients from waitlists. It will also save the patients time as they don’t have to make appointments at dozens of locations.

Advanced Automatic Email Reminders

Waitlists and email communications are vital when managing expectations of potential patients. An integrated communications strategy can improve client satisfaction and retention and boost effectiveness and efficiency for healthcare organizations.

Now, healthcare professionals can create unlimited customized email and text reminders for different appointment types. Patients will receive automated appointment reminders by email or SMS, and can confirm their appointment electronically. Appointment reminders can also include pre-screening questions, appointment instructions or links to specific forms.

For example, vaccination consent forms can be filled out online by patients before their appointment. Any last minute changes to where or how a patient attends their appointment can be easily sent beforehand. After an appointment, you can send post-appointment follow-up communications like thank-you emails, feedback surveys or any supporting documentation, all with a click of a button. 

MyFluShot.ca is Now MyVaccines.ca

During 2020, we ran an Ontario wide campaign called MyFluShot.ca, in partnership with Immunize Canada, to encourage healthcare organizations to provide greater transparency to real-time vaccine availability inventory.

Based on it’s success we launched MyCovid19Vaccine.ca – as a dedicated service to allow Canadians to find and book available COVID19 Vaccinations – which saw incredible demand as the provincial governments rolled out vaccines to various cohorts of patients. It exposed the fact that nationally we as an industry can do a lot better in helping Canadian’s locate vaccinations, especially during times of high demand and limited supply.

To help increase transparency and equity of vaccine delivery, we’ve evolved MyFluShot.ca and MyCovid19Vaccine.ca into simply MyVaccines.ca – a national vaccine locator for all vaccines.  Our vision with this platform is to have vaccine availability and inventory data from all vaccinators across Canada, and to make it easy for all Canadian’s find and book their next vaccination. This effort builds on the successful pilots and partnerships with organizations across the healthcare industry in Canada.

MyVaccines.ca makes vaccinations easy for healthcare professionals as well. It’s the easiest and fastest way to let the community know what vaccines you have available – without picking up the phone. It will improve healthcare navigation of the whole system, thereby increasing effectiveness and efficiency across networks. MyVaccines.ca has advanced features like simplified vaccine inventory management, multi-dose scheduling, automatic email reminders and centralized wait lists that make managing vaccination appointments a breeze. In the MyVaccines.ca portal, healthcare professionals can also update their operating and holiday hours, the languages available at their clinic and other healthcare services they offer, easily directing patients to their location. 

As of September 1st, patients can sign-up to be notified when flu shots are in stock. Start accepting pre-bookings today with a free professional account.

Visit www.MyVaccines.ca to register now.


EMPOWER Health’s online booking tools

EMPOWER Health is a personalized online appointment booking platform and health service directory that help Canadians find and access the care they need.

EMPOWER Health’s digital health solutions include national directories of healthcare organizations, online appointment booking that integrates with clinical workflows and clinical software, wait-times services, centralized wait-lists email notification system and simplified vaccine inventory management. 

A Friendly Reminder to Get Your Flu Shot!

With COVID-19 being all the rage right now, many of us have forgotten that there are other ongoing public health concerns that continue to persist alongside the pandemic. One of these concerns include the spread of the Influenza virus—the virus that causes Influenza, a contagious respiratory illness otherwise known as “the flu.”

Unlike COVID-19, Influenza is not a new virus. It has been around for decades and is ranked among the top 10 leading causes of death in Canada (PHAC, 2020). On average, Influenza is estimated to cause about 3,500 deaths in Canada annually. Influenza can lead to severe illness, particularly affecting vulnerable populations including young children and infants, adults aged 65 and older, people with chronic medical conditions, those who are pregnant, Indigenous peoples and people who are currently residing in nursing homes. As new strains of influenza appear every year, receiving an annual immunization of the seasonal influenza vaccine can significantly reduce the risk of getting the flu and being hospitalized, and perhaps even death. 

Book your appointment with MyVaccines.ca

Because of COVID-19, most flu shot clinics are not currently offering walk-in vaccinations, and will require flu shot appointments. Luckily for you, MyVaccines.ca makes the Influenza vaccine booking process as easy as cake.

With its user-friendly interface, MyVaccines.ca works to safely and conveniently find available flu shot clinics near you. You can use its filters to easily search by location, clinic type, and seasonal influenza vaccine in multiple languages. By entering your email address, you will be notified when flu shots become available and will also be able to access a map showing all local flu shot options to help you decide where you would prefer to go.

You can sign up for email notifications to book you flu shot appointment here: MyVaccines.ca

References
Public Health Agency of Canada. (2020, October 23). Government of Canada. Canada.ca. Retrieved September 23, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/flu-influenza/health-professionals.html.

Bairavie Piravakaran (she/her) is a second-year undergraduate at the University of Toronto Scarborough. As a Psychological & Health Sciences student, she values the importance of sharing credible information and making health resources more accessible to the public. Her interests in population health, research, and design are also reflected in her non-academic pursuits—she currently volunteers with the Young Leaders of Public Health and Medicine (YLPHM) as a Social Media Manager for the Scarborough Chapter and is a Health Promotion & Analytics Member at Critical Health Innovations Lab (CHIL). At EMPOWER Health, Bairavie works closely with the Marketing Team in order to plan and execute strategies that help inform the public about current health-related topics.

What’s in a Name? The Messaging Behind Vaccine Passports in Ontario

Vaccine Passports have been all the rage recently as Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the plan to implement them earlier this week. The system is set to cover “higher-risk” indoor spaces where masks can’t be worn at all times and will be applied in the following non-essential settings effective September 22, 2021 (Powers & Carter, 2021):

  • Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, delivery and takeout).
  • Nightclubs, including outdoor areas.
  • Meeting and event spaces like banquet halls and convention centres.
  • Sports and fitness facilities and gyms, with the exception of youth recreational sports.
  • Sporting events.
  • Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments.
  • Concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas.
  • Strip clubs, bath houses and sex clubs.
  • Racing venues.

The Power of Words

Health experts have recently claimed that the use of the term “passport” is causing more harm than good (Bensadoun, 2021). Ever since the concept of “vaccine passports” were introduced last year, falsified information has and continues to bombard public forums. As such, the level of support towards the implementation of this immunization record system has plummeted. 

Dr. Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and science communicator teaching at the University of Ottawa, claims that passports suggest “restrictions” and that “we [tend to] think of passports [and immediately associate them with] border control. You think of uninformed individuals looking up and down, asking for your papers and restricting you from something you feel you have a right to access” (Bensadoun, 2021).

A Familiar Concept

It is important to remember that vaccine passports-or in other words, immunization records have existed for many years and are common around the world. In most provinces in Canada, public schools will require proof of a child’s immunization record in order to attend. 

In the words of Maxwell Smith, a bioethicist and professor at Western University, “people feel that their liberties are being infringed upon with these sort of systems, despite the fact that we have always ordered society in the name of public health with particular protections that protect populations and we view vaccination status as one of those ways to do that” (Bensadoun, 2021).

References

Bensadoun, E. (2021, September 8). ‘Vaccine passport’ or ‘immunization record’? Why experts say there’s power in words – national. Global News. Retrieved September 9, 2021, from https://globalnews.ca/news/8171936/vaccine-passport-language-concerns/.

Powers, L., & Carter, A. (2021, September 2). Ontarians will need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination for indoor DINING, GYMS, Theatres | CBC News. CBCnews. Retrieved September 9, 2021, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-covid-vaccine-passport-certificate-proof-1.6160728.

About the Author

Bairavie Piravakaran (she/her) is a second-year undergraduate at the University of Toronto Scarborough. As a Psychological & Health Sciences student, she values the importance of sharing credible information and making health resources more accessible to the public. Her interests in population health, research, and design are also reflected in her non-academic pursuits—she currently with the Young Leaders of Public Health and Medicine (YLPHM) as a Social Media Manager for the Scarborough Chapter and is a Health Promotion & Analytics Member at Critical Health Innovations Lab (CHIL). At EMPOWER Health, Bairavie works closely with the Marketing Team in order to plan and execute strategies that help inform the public about current health-related topics.

The Evolution of MyVaccines.ca & How It’s Modernizing Canadian Healthcare

The Evolution of MyVaccines.ca & How It’s Modernizing Canadian Healthcare

2021 saw an incredible increase in interest in vaccinations. Not just COVID19 vaccines, but vaccines of all types across the board.  The vaccination conversation for better and worse has become much louder.  As we’ve reignited the discussion for vaccine benefits – protecting oneself and their community against communicable and deadly diseases, we’ve also seen a shift in how people are looking for vaccinations.  

The early part of this shift actually happened during the 2020 flu season – more demand for flu vaccines from patients looking to avoid flu complications during a COVID wave – and shortages of those vaccines due to the mismatch in supply.  As a pilot with Immunize Canada we launched MyFluShot.ca as a way to allow vaccinators to provide transparency into their availability and supply, and for patients to find, join a waitlist, and book flu vaccines. 

Based on this success we launched MyCovid19Vaccine.ca – as a dedicated service to allow Canadians to find and book available Covid Vaccinations – which saw incredible demand as the provincial governments rolled out vaccines to various cohorts of patients.  It exposed the fact that nationally we as an industry can do a lot better in helping Canadian’s locate vaccinations, especially during times of high demand and limited supply.  There were many attempts to address this inequity in our industry from government agencies to crowd sourced twitter feeds, but none of these were able to provide full transparency and visibility into all providers.  

To help increase transparency and equity of vaccine delivery, we’ve evolved MyFluShot.ca and MyCovid19Vaccine.ca into simply MyVaccines.ca – a national vaccine locator for all vaccines.  Our vision with this platform is to have vaccine availability and inventory data from all vaccinators across Canada, and to help all Canadian’s to find and book their next vaccination.  This effort builds on the successful pilots and partnerships with organizations across the healthcare industry in Canada, and we need all vaccinators to use our easy to use tools to help us build on this vision. 

Find and Book Your Next Vaccine Anywhere in Canada with MyVaccines.ca

Find and Book Your Next Vaccine Anywhere in Canada with MyVaccines.ca

On September 1st, 2021 EMPOWER Health launched MyVaccines.ca – a national locator with online appointment booking for all types of vaccines. The map-based directory allows users to search and book a vaccination appointment at any public health, pharmacy, primary care and mass vaccination clinic in their region. 

For the public, it means improving healthcare navigation, vaccination access and delivery. During the COVID-19 pandemic we witnessed the lack of infrastructure to support wide-spread vaccinations. If someone wanted to book a COVID-19 vaccination, they would have to call multiple healthcare providers to be put on multiple locations waitlists. Oftentimes, having to follow-up on their appointments by calling providers directly. This was frustrating, stressful and time-consuming for both patients and healthcare professionals. Through MyVaccines.ca, anyone can search, join a waitlist, and book appointments when vaccines are available. Users can sign-up to join a vaccination waitlist for a specific location, group of locations, or a region, and be notified when any provider has vaccinations available. 

For healthcare professionals, it’s the easiest and fastest way to let the community know what vaccines you have available – without picking up the phone. It will improve healthcare navigation of the whole system, thereby increasing effectiveness and efficiency across networks. MyVaccines.ca has advanced features like simplified vaccine inventory management, multi-dose scheduling, automatic email reminders and centralized wait lists that make managing vaccination appointments a breeze. It makes it easier for healthcare organization administrators to manage appointments as they don’t have to manually book or remove patients from waitlists who’ve gotten their vaccination somewhere else.

The vision with MyVaccines.ca is to have vaccine availability and inventory data from all vaccinators across Canada, and to help all Canadians find and book their next vaccination with ease. This is a coordinated effort by healthcare professionals, networks and the public to help us build on this vision and make it as easy as possible for patients to access and professionals to deliver quality care.