Automated clinic registry simplifies vaccine clinics

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Registering students, faculty and staff for vaccine clinics was a daunting task as colleges and universities responded to the H1N1 pandemic.

At The Ohio State University, those involved with response had to choose between an online vaccine registration system and a phone system, said Bob Armstrong, Emergency Management and Fire Prevention director for The Ohio State University. The web-based vaccine registration system would have been too time-consuming, he said. Instead, the university turned to an automated phone system that could also link into e-mail and had been heavily used for a few campus activities.

The university chose to establish a phone registration line that essentially helped planners create a two-tier triage system, helping them ensure they were reaching the highest-risk populations first, he said. The technology office assigned one full-time person to help planners. It took two days to develop a flow chart for the calls, and a weekend to test it, Armstrong said.

A caller dialing into the system would first self-identify as a student, faculty or staff. The phone system next asked for the caller's university identification number, which allowed the program to pull up that caller's e-mail address.

Next, the phone system asked the caller what vaccine priority group/s that person fit into, such as healthcare workers or 18-24 year-old with a pre-existing condition. As the person concluded the call, the system sent an automatic registration e-mail to that caller. Armstrong received daily reports on how many people had registered.

The first round of calls-to register people-occurred about three weeks before vaccine arrived, Armstrong said. When vaccine arrived and planners knew how many doses they had available, the automated system was set up to e-mail the first batch of people who registered by phone in high-priority groups. Pre-registered people in high priority groups were told that vaccine would be available at certain times and locations, and then asked to select the clinic time that best fit their schedules.

Between 3,500 and 5,500 students, faculty and staff registered using the automated registration system, Armstrong said, and noted that the system functioned well.

"We could control the number of people (signed up). We couldn't have asked for better turnout," Armstrong said. Faculty, staff and student clinic wait times were typically less than five minutes, but not longer than 20 minutes, he said. "We were able to avoid the long lines."

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