How Technology Enables Public Health Equity

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Group of vaccinated people.

COVID-19 has brought a variety of challenges to the American population. One of the most important was reaching underprivileged, underserved and undocumented communities for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

The California Health Medical Reserve Corps (CHMRC) is an authorized medical reserve corps that works to bridge the gaps in care delivery between health care, public health, response agencies, payers, and community health agencies. Using the power of Microsoft technology, CHMRC and nonprofit organizations have been able to deliver COVID-19 tests and vaccines to those in need at an unprecedented rate. In October 2022, the Microsoft team will join the CHMRC at the ISM 2022 Annual Conference and Exhibition to discuss this topic, and much more.

Engage with all residents

Rapidly changing federal, state, and local guidelines and protocols for face masks, social distancing, remote working, and vaccinations meant that significant segments of the state’s population could not afford or ability to comply. Identifying and meeting the real needs of underserved populations was particularly challenging, requiring innovative collaborations at the intersection of healthcare, public health and community organizations. Engaging these residents required flexible, scalable, and secure information sharing and cooperation among various agencies and health entities.

For example, drive-thru rapid mass screening and vaccination sites were created to quickly deliver services to residents where they were needed most. There was also a need to provide support to communities that may be hesitant, suspicious or hard to reach.

“Trust is hard to establish, and even harder to maintain and grow. Our population speaks multiple languages, has limited digital skills, lacks cell phones and internet access, and fears and mistrusts government and big institutions. Using the Microsoft solution, the CHMRC was able to capture data, ensure continuity of care and equip these sites with the necessary supporting technology. The partnership with Microsoft has not only enabled CHMRC to gain trust and accountability to those who need it most, but we are also now engaged with these communities and the organizations they trust on an ongoing basis. —Dan Desmond, CHMRC Executive Director, MRC Director.

As the pandemic grew, California, like many other states and territories, faced an almost insurmountable challenge with multiple regional immunization registries, reporting systems that had supported small outbreaks hit by millions of test results and the digital divide between healthcare and public health most requiring case reports to be faxed and manually entered.

“The CHMRC faced three challenges that the ‘technology first’ approach did not address: privacy of individual information, support in rural areas with limited connectivity, and flexibility to adapt to the stolen to meet the needs of the community. Microsoft worked with us to quickly bring technology-enabled care to those who needed it, rather than forcing them to large mass vaccination sites. —Dan Desmond, CHMRC Executive Director, MRC Director.

Respond at unprecedented speed

Because it was at the center of the crisis, the CHMRC understood the importance of coordinating data and sharing feedback. It has worked with state and local public health agencies to ensure its new solution, Vaccines for All (V4A), fills gaps and leverages systems already in place.

“When COVID started, we realized that all advanced technologies and systems lacked the flexibility to adapt to the situation. Microsoft 365 E5 gave us the power, security and flexibility to meet this challenge. Now , nearly every feature of Microsoft 365 E5 has been utilized as we move beyond the pandemic to build stronger, healthier, more resilient communities.”—Dan Desmond, CHMRC Executive Director, MRC Director.

The first phase of the V4A project was to improve inter-agency collaboration, boost collection of COVID-19 tests, distribute faster tests and provide education in non-clinical settings such as farms, churches, community centers, parks and schools. The ability to securely collect personal information and make it usable for legacy healthcare and public health systems was critical to the project.

The first phase of V4A successfully connected multiple systems and, with the help of Microsoft Azure Active Directory, set the stage for the second phase. The second phase benefited from several weeks of planning and preparation, as access to COVID-19 vaccines expanded beyond healthcare workers and those at critical risk. Meanwhile, COVID-19 testing should be expanded as a vaccination requirement or alternative for returning to work or attending events.

The three key components of V4A Phase Two were:

  • To improve Microsoft Vaccine Management (MVM) to support walk-in and ad hoc vaccinations in addition to existing capacities for mass vaccination sites.
  • Integrate MVM with the existing solution platform and quickly extend it to include a multilingual call center offering online support, registration for those without capacity, and identification of other needs such as transportation planning and providing clear and consistent public health messaging to community partners.
  • Participation of CHMRC in Vaccine Equity Consortium (VEC) launched by Microsoft with Easter Seals, United Way Worldwide and other partners.

To advance

The value of the Vaccine Equity Initiative cannot be underestimated as it brought lessons learned and best practices from around the country that helped to rapidly scale and improve the V4A project. Other communities in California, Washington, Georgia and Mississippi have provided valuable advice and information to CHMRC and VEC. CHMRC, through the Vaccine Equity Consortium, is currently working to make this technology platform available globally.

Today, V4A enters its third phase: COVID Catch-Up. This phase expands health services to include Medicaid enrollment, wellness checks, overdue vaccinations, and more.

Join us at the 2022 ISM Annual Conference & Expo

We invite you to attend the next session on how technology is enabling health equity in the ISM 2022 Annual Conference and Exhibition. CHMRC and Microsoft will tell you first-hand how technology helps deliver essential health services to underserved, vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. We will also demonstrate how the VEC public-private partnership model can serve as an operational model to address global health care disparities.

Learn more about CHMRC Public Health Collaboration and Microsoft for Public Health and Human Services.

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