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The importance of technology in care home vaccine roll-out

By Steve Sawyer | January 21, 2021

The sight of COVID-19 vaccinations being administered to care home residents over recent weeks will be a great relief to care workers, family members and health officials alike. With residents and staff among the highest priority groups targeted for the vaccine, the task of managing the process will be front of mind for homes over coming weeks.

Steve Sawyer, Managing Director of The Access Group’s health and social care division, explains how care workers can control the process to ensure all doses are correctly and safely administered.

With the UK’s approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, headlines have been dominated by the news of the roll-out to the most at-risk groups in society. Care homes and care homes with nursing, which were among the areas hardest hit by the first wave of the virus, will understandably rest slightly easier with each dose that is administered to staff and residents.

Ongoing logistics issues, ranging from establishing 24/7 vaccine hubs to securing regular supply of each vaccine, will be obstacles to be overcome as the process offers a glimpse of a return to some semblance of reality in the not-too-distant future. Providers will be facing their own logistical challenges over the coming weeks, and it will be vital that they get the correct processes in place to manage roll-out among their staff and residents during what is likely to be a complex, crucial and potentially hectic period of activity.

Adhering to best practice

While the urge to administer doses of vaccine as quickly as possible to protect staff and residents is shared across society, it is important that the vital administrative processes and compliance measures are followed carefully to ensure the short- and long-term safety of all involved.

For example, some residents may require specific or modified risk assessment and consent forms to be completed ahead of any vaccination. Equally, best interest documentation may be required depending on whether the individual has been judged to give consent. If, at a later stage, care providers are asked to show evidence that vaccinations were administered and the correct guidelines were adhered to, any missing records could have a significant impact on the whole business.

While these all-important admin tasks could be completed on paper or in a spreadsheet, this can lead to records being submitted incorrectly or going missing. It also means that staff don’t get the instant reporting of how vaccines are progressing in their homes or updated care records to show which residents are yet to receive a dose. As is often the case, digital provides a potential solution here, with some systems allowing the admin challenges to be removed and the relevant information to be easily accessible and recorded.

Some systems can also assist staff with monitoring residents any side effects or adverse reactions once the vaccine has been administered, helping to prioritise residents for monitoring and ensuring the vaccine is factored into any medical interventions, should they be required in the future. Some residents, for example, may require regular intravenous medication, so keeping track of which body sites were used for administering the vaccine and managing skin integrity is vital to ensure their continued health.

Monitoring this process for a handful of residents, as staff normally would, is a relatively straightforward task, but with the whole care home to monitor and assess it quickly becomes a more complex operation so effective record keeping will be essential.

Overcoming administrative challenges

With the need for a quick and efficient vaccine roll-out, care providers will be eager to avoid any administrative delays which slow down the process of protecting their staff and residents. With a combination of vaccine hubs, GP surgeries, and mobile vaccine units, the logistics of getting a resident to the vaccine could be a complex task depending on the nature of the care home in question.

The NHS is to provide GPs an extra £10 for every care home resident they are able to vaccinate against COVID-19 by the end of January as the Government strives to accelerate its drive to protect the most vulnerable, and care staff will have to be in regular contact with their local surgeries to ensure clear communication.

Once the process is underway, planning and recording vaccinations will be vital to provide a complete overview of the proportion of residents that have been administered a vaccine, as well as who is still waiting. This will prevent residents being overlooked or vaccinations being delayed due to staff or medical professionals not having a clear picture of the scheduling and process of the programme.

Tracking administration and timings is particularly vital in relation to the second dose, which can be administered up to 12 weeks after the first dose, depending on the type of vaccine. If getting every resident to a single dose of the vaccine was a major logistical challenge, ensuring they receive the second dose within the correct timeframe to maximise efficacy adds another layer of complexity.

Any information about infections and vaccinations will also have to be submitted to the care provider’s local health boards.

Given the impact of the first wave of COVID-19 on the care sector, the vaccination programme in care homes is a vital step to help staff and residents towards a return to some sort of normality. Of course, given the current circumstances, speed is vital to protect the safety of as many people as possible. However, it is important that care homes take the time to carefully manage the whole process and ensure that all doses are correctly administered and recorded.

Fortunately, a number of different systems are available to help staff quickly and easily record all relevant information to ensure an efficient vaccine roll out, prioritise the safety of residents, and ensure compliance for the care or nursing home in question.

Steve Sawyer is Managing Director of  The Access Group’s Health and Social Care division.

About Steve Sawyer

Steve Sawyer is managing director of The Access Group’s health and social care division and joined the company in 2013 after gaining more than 20 years of experience in the care and not-for-profit sectors.

Working with more than 7,500 registered care providers, The Access Group is the UK’s leading supplier of specialist software solutions to both residential and domiciliary providers.

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