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. 

“No Jab, no job?”: Mandating Vaccines at Work

There has been ongoing debate on whether mandating vaccines in general is the most ethical approach to immunization. With the recent surge of COVID-19 cases however, many employers are now requiring employees to receive their vaccines in order to be able to continue to work. This is following Ontario’s chief medical officer of health’s release of new vaccination guidelines for healthcare and education sectors.

According to the new guidelines, starting September 7, 2021, all employees, staff, contractors, students, volunteers from high risk-settings such as ambulance services at hospitals and in-home and community care services will be required to show proof of vaccination or a medical reason for not being vaccinated (Ontario Newsroom, 2021). Those who choose not to provide proof of vaccination with two doses will be required to take an antigen COVID-19 test and complete an educational session (Ontario Newsroom, 2021).

Is this new policy effective?

The University Health Network (UHN) has recently confirmed that its current employees who are still unvaccinated by the end of October will be terminated (DeClerq, 2021). The health network’s CEO Kevin Smith claims that this newly implemented policy has led to a significant increase in vaccinations, as the percentage of vaccinated employees rose from 85% in late July to what is now 92% (DeClerq, 2021). Daniel Lublin, a Toronto-based employment lawyer, applauds UHN for making it clear as to what will happen if an employee refuses to receive a COVID-19 vaccine (DeClerq, 2021).

The ongoing dispute

While these new guidelines seem to be effective in convincing more individuals to get their shot, the real question is whether employers actually have the right to impose such vaccination mandates. The other concern is what happens to employees who are unable to get vaccinated due to physical and/or medical conditions. 

As such, it becomes clear that implementing new guidelines are not as black an white as the “no jab, no job” policy. In a recent CTV interview, employment lawyer Jon Pinkus states that “Employers are not obligated by law to have their employees vaccinated,” but until then, “many employers will likely be dealing with a high volume of disputes from employees” (Cranston, 2021). 

References

Cranston, M. (2021, August 24). No jab, no job? Experts weigh in on legality of vaccine mandates at private companies. British Columbia. https://bc.ctvnews.ca/no-jab-no-job-experts-weigh-in-on-legality-of-vaccine-mandates-at-private-companies-1.5558766.

DeClerq, K. (2021, August 21). Unvaccinated employees at Toronto hospital network told they will be fired. Toronto. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/unvaccinated-employees-at-toronto-hospital-network-told-they-will-be-fired-1.5555653.

Ontario Newsroom. (2021, August 17). Ontario Makes COVID-19 Vaccination Policies Mandatory for High-Risk Settings. Ontario Newsroom. https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/1000750/ontario-makes-covid-19-vaccination-policies-mandatory-for-high-risk-settings.

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.

Is Canada heading towards a fourth wave?

The short answer is yes, but the real question is how severe the resurgence of COVID-19 cases will be. According to Canada’s latest modelling, the fourth wave is set to be driven by the delta variant; its impact on the general public, however, will directly correlate with the number of people who are fully vaccinated (Aiello, 2021).

The pandemic of the unvaccinated

The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) has also warned that the upcoming surge in COVID case numbers could become a great threat to the province (Johnson, 2021). Ontarians who have yet to receive two doses are now considered to be the most vulnerable population. Officials are calling this upcoming fourth wave “the pandemic of the unvaccinated” (Johnson, 2021).

“The updated longer-range forecast shows how the epidemic trajectory may evolve through early September. It suggests that we are at the start of the Delta-driven fourth wave, but that the trajectory will depend on ongoing increases in fully vaccinated coverage, and the timing, pace and extent of reopening,” – Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada

A Disproportionate Impact

In a recent interview,  Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller expresses his concern as he fears that this Delta-driven fourth wave would heavily impact marginalized communities, especially Indigenous peoples (Malone, 2021). According to Miller, a large portion of Indigenous peoples, particularly those living on reserves, are children under the age of 12, who are not eligible to get a dose (Malone, 2021). The biggest threat to unvaccinated individuals however, is the rising number of delta variant cases. 

Outbreaks of the Delta variant have already begun to pop up on reserves within the past few weeks. In northern Saskatchewan, the Black Lake First Nation went into lockdown last month as the Delta variant spread rapidly and affected around 1600 individuals (Malone, 2021).The Athabasca Health Authority also claims that the number of cases this week reached over 200—ultimately requiring those living in affected areas to self-isolate (Malone, 2021).

Taking a closer look at the numbers

Hospitalization rates across the region have continued to remain low, with less than 1% of hospitalized cases occurring in people who are fully vaccinated (Aiello, 2021). That being said, 89.7% of all hospitalized cases occurring in unvaccinated people are those who are eligible to receive the vaccine (Aiello, 2021). 

Out of the 84.9 % hospitalized cases who are unvaccinated, 5.3%of cases are those who are not yet eligible for vaccines, and 4.6% are those who are partially vaccinated. (Aiello, 2021)

“I think it’s going to be primarily be younger unvaccinated children [affected], and of course the adults who have chosen not to get the vaccine,” – Dr. Steve Flindall, York Region Emergency Physician

To book your COVID-19 vaccination, visit iamsick.ca!

References

Aiello, R. (2021, July 30). Canada is heading towards a ‘Delta-driven’ FOURTH Wave, tam says. Coronavirus. https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/canada-is-heading-towards-a-delta-driven-fourth-wave-tam-says-1.5529290.

Johnson, N. (2021, August 4). Ontario hospitals begin to brace for fourth wave of covid-19. Toronto. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-hospitals-begin-to-brace-for-fourth-wave-of-covid-19-1.5534889.

Malone, K. G. (2021, August 4). Indigenous Minister worries lifting COVID-19 restrictions could bring fourth wave. Coronavirus. https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/indigenous-minister-worries-lifting-covid-19-restrictions-could-bring-fourth-wave-1.5534383.

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.

Crunching COVID Numbers: What to Expect this Fall

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore claims that he “absolutely” expects a rise in COVID-19 cases in September and that Ontario will be preparing for the potential surge (Davidson, 2021).

Fall is right around the corner—and so is flu season. As most people tend to spend a great amount of time indoors due to colder temperatures, many respiratory viruses will also begin to spread around mid to late September (Davidson, 2021). It is crucial for Ontario to amp up its immunization rates by September so that Ontarians can safely take part in indoor activities (Davidson, 2021).

According to the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary, COVID-19 infections have recently jumped well over the 100 count (Tsekouras, 2021). The majority of these new cases were found in Toronto and Hamilton (Tsekouras, 2021). Other affected areas include Waterloo, Peel Region, York Region, Durham Region, Halton Region, and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph (Tsekouras, 2021).  As of July 28, 2021, there were 218 new cases reported in Ontario (Fox, 2021).

Update on COVID-19 Variants

As of last week, 234 cases of COVID-19 variants of concern (VOC) were reported in Ontario (Tsekouras, 2021). At least 99 of those 234 cases were of the Alpha variant, about 69 of them were of the Gamma variant, 61 cases of the Delta variant, and 5 of them were of the Beta variant (Tsekouras, 2021).

Looking Ahead

Dr. Moore seems confident that Ontario will be able to reach its desired targets and move forward from stage 3 before August 6th, 2021. In order to surpass stage 3 however, at least 80% of those eligible for vaccines need to have received their first dose, and 75% should have their second (Davidson, 2021). Moreover, the province will be remaining in this stage for a minimum of 21 days before most public health restrictions are lifted (Tsekouras, 2021). As such, Ontarians will need to keep up with their COVID-19 vaccines to be well-prepared for the fall.

“It’s a challenge to all Ontarians. If we want to get through to the next phase of reopening, which is a complete reopening with no public health measures, we’ve got work cut out for us.” – Dr. Kieran Moore

For those looking to get vaccinated against COVID-19, visit iamsick.ca to book your appointment.

References

Davidson, S. (2021, July 13). Ontario’s top doctor ‘absolutely’ expects rise IN COVID-19 cases in September. Toronto. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-s-top-doctor-absolutely-expects-rise-in-covid-19-cases-in-september-1.5507695.

Fox, C. (2021, July 29). Ontario reports highest number of new COVID-19 cases in more than three weeks. CP24. https://www.cp24.com/news/ontario-reports-highest-number-of-new-covid-19-cases-in-more-than-three-weeks-1.5527730.

Tsekouras, P. (2021, July 22). Ontario reports jump in new COVID-19 infections but case numbers remain below 200. Toronto. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-reports-jump-in-new-covid-19-infections-but-case-numbers-remain-below-200-1.5519069.

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.

Is It Safe to Gather With Others During The COVID-19 Pandemic? Use This Tool to Find Out: CovidVisitRisk.com

The Visit Risk Calculator (CovidVisitRisk.com) is a new assessment tool launched by the NIA (National Institute of Ageing) in partnership with the Government of Canada to help Canadians assess the risk-level associated with social gatherings.

Using the best available scientific evidence and the input of leading experts in infectious diseases, public health and epidemiology, the website was developed to help people of different ages and states of health better understand the factors that affect the risk of getting COVID-19 when visiting or gathering with others.

As vaccination programs ramp up across the country, restrictions are slowly loosening. Canadians want more guidance on what fully-vaccinated people can do safely. Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says, “We would like to enable people to take themselves through [this] kind of risk assessment while respecting local public health requirements.”

To use the tool, you will be asked a series of questions related to your vaccination and health status, and that of the people you want to gather with, details of the event and what the local infection rates are.

“This tool uses the best available scientific evidence to support people of all ages and states of health to make more informed decisions about gathering with others during the pandemic,” says Dr. Samir Sinha, NIA Director of Health Policy Research. “After working through the questions, people are assigned a risk level in accordance with the gathering they are considering, along with public health advice on how to meet more safely with others.”

Based on your answers, you will get a “risk score” from Low to High, a personalized report to help you understand the level of risk associated with your planned visit or gathering, and tips on how to make your visit or gathering as safe as possible for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The vision behind the tool is to prepare you and your loved ones to better discuss the potential risks and benefits of visiting or gathering with each other and in the end make a well-informed decision on how to make any necessary visits or gatherings as safe as possible.

“These risk assessments depend on your individual risk, who you’re about to get into contact with, as well as the epidemiology of your specific community,” says Dr. Theresa Tam.

As of June 25th 2021, 75% of the population 12 years and older has received at least one dose and 22% is fully vaccinated. However, COVID-19 remains an important public health issue as transmission with new variants of concern continue to circulate. Careful assessment before deciding to visit, gather, or meet with others remains vitally important.

To learn more about the COVID-19 Risk Calculator or to use it for yourself, click here.

Disclosure: EMPOWER Health helped the NIA build the online experience of the risk assessment tool, and provided technical guidance along with testing.  As always, our team is proud of our work with Public Health Organizations to help conquer COVID! Visit us at empower.ca!

References

Rabson, M. (2021, June 22). Risk-assessment tool for fully vaccinated people coming soon, Tam promises. Ctvnews.ca. https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/risk-assessment-tool-for-fully-vaccinated-people-coming-soon-tam-promises-1.5481082