Early on in the coronavirus vaccine rollout, finding a leftover dose became the golden ticket of 2021. Everyone tried to find the elusive vaccine appointment, with countless individuals scouring online and in-person to get their jab. The extra shots required medical professionals to administer them within hours of removal from the cold storage, posing a unique problem to facilities with surplus vaccines due to no-shows, double-booking, and daily cancelations.
Initial requirements during this time had staff approaching shoppers within the facility or making frantic calls throughout the clinic to try and fill the opening. Unfortunately, not every situation proved successful, sending extra vaccines to the garbage during a period of extremely limited resources.
To reduce the overall vaccine waste and give communities a fair opportunity to receive their dose, Dr. B took a new approach to traditional appointment methods.
To reduce the overall vaccine waste and give communities a fair opportunity to receive their dose, Dr. B took a new approach to traditional appointment methods. The website connected registered clinics with a surplus of vaccines to participants wanting the COVID-19 vaccine on short notice. The program was free to use for providers and clinics, with approximately 755 various clinics across the country and 2.5 million users.
Problems of Early Vaccine Rollout
As early vaccine distribution began in early 2021, individual states determined individual criteria and protocols for qualification. Many of these stipulations looked at a candidate's overall health and age. The priority system placed those with comorbidities and elderly populations on a higher priority than the public. The hierarchy system eventually loosened to include larger segments of the population, causing an overall vaccine scarcity.
The initial launch failed to incorporate the shortages, leaving health facilities and doctor's offices at the mercy of online scheduling. Frustration and tension increased as difficulties in booking an appointment continued. Many were left playing a lottery for appointment times. People logged into the websites in the middle of the night to try and secure a position. Some individuals booked multiple vaccine slots, trying to find a closer time slot at another facility.
Unfortunately, many failed to cancel these appointments, leaving many medical professionals scrambling to fill the thawed doses. Despite the initial vaccine shortages, any vaccines unable to be administered before the expiration were thrown out. According to the Dr. B website founder, nearly 20-30% of all vaccines were discarded due to expiration issues in the initial phase of administration – a significant loss during a global pandemic.
How Did Dr. B Help Improve Community Safety?
Scientific studies have shown that vaccination against the coronavirus is the easiest way to protect vulnerable members within a community. Overall, the more individuals that receive the vaccine, the better. Dr. B's website helped improve accessibility by automating a standby service that reduced vaccine waste. The platform offered complimentary registration for both individuals and clinics.
Facilities offering the COVID-19 vaccine could register with the network, submitting daily surplus inventories and expiries directly to the site. Dr. B used the registered database of potential candidates to cross-reference location, mandates, and priority against the facility's daily availability. From there, qualified participants received a text message with the clinic location and timeframe to receive the vaccine. Most of these appointments required same-day vaccination to avoid the expiration of such a valuable resource.
How was the program received?
One of the highest indicators of success isn't just the numbers, but the impact a project carries within a community. One online Dr. B review highlighted the website's direct connection with vulnerable communities, helping people connect with essential services when they might otherwise have fallen through the cracks.
When initially launching, the founder, Cyrus Massoumi, intentionally connected with communities of color first. The original intent was to equalize the socioeconomic factors influencing vaccine distribution. The platform is coupled with the NAACP, Community Action Network, iHeartRadio's Spanish-speaking channels, and the Indian Health Service first. By specifically advertising to these communities, which included individuals with a lower probability of vaccination and higher levels of risk overall, Dr. B gave community members a jump-start to registering online. Ultimately, higher risk patients were moved to front of the cue.
As the website's popularity continued to grow, the Dr. B provider network also grew exponentially. Then, when vaccines became more readily available, the website eventually closed open applications, reaching 2.5 million registered individuals wanting to connect with an immunization. Ultimately, over 700 different providers registered online to distribute surplus vaccinations, stretching across more than 30 states in the United States. As of today's date, over a million notifications of available vaccines have been submitted to qualified candidates.
Standby lists build a bridge between those requiring medical services and available candidates with moderate flexibility in their schedule to accommodate last-minute appointments. While this application proved highly successful with vaccine distribution, it also highlights potential applications in other areas of healthcare. The overall impact was significant; not only did the platform connect interested applicants with available vaccines that would have otherwise been discarded, but it also showcased a new approach to modern healthcare programs.
Building a real-time connection to waitlist services is an efficient approach to receiving adequate care. Depending on availability, interested parties can expedite access to various healthcare components – without additional strain on current services. The potential doesn't just sit within the healthcare realm; virtually every industry can apply Dr. B's interface to reduce access barriers.
The Dr. B platform offered a service to connect successful candidates to needed vaccinations in a real-time, priority-based way. The success showcased the overall demand for such a product, with nearly 2.5 million people hoping to connect with an available vaccine. What started to improve the vaccine distribution turned into a frontrunner for influence on the healthcare platform overall. By identifying a critical lack within the healthcare system (including operations), Massoumi efficiently reduced the quantity of discarded vaccines.
During a period of significant resource limitations, those who wanted access to a vaccine were afforded another option for receiving the dose (on top of regular appointment booking options). Increasing the number of options reduces many traditional barriers within the United States, benefiting local communities and populations.