27 May 2021

Covid-19

Swift tech updates a boon for vaccination exercise



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When Singapore began its national vaccination programme in late- December last year, public healthcare technology agency Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS) worked around the clock to develop an integrated IT system that would be able to support the country's demands.

In the last few months, the team at IHiS has had to overcome many hurdles. This includes the difficulty in tracking the duration starting from when a person had been vaccinated until the time he or she is allowed to leave if there are no severe side effects experienced.

A nationwide vaccination also posed significant constraints on manpower, which IHiS' chief executive officer Bruce Liang said was one of the biggest challenges his team had to deal with.

"To embark on a national vaccination exercise in such a short time, that has never been done before. The scale was unprecedented," he said.

While the first vaccination exercise at the end of 2020 involved just 40 healthcare workers, there are now more than 50,000 people vaccinated daily.

The Singapore government has said that it expects to finish its Covid-19 inoculation programme by the end of this year.

"Many workers at the vaccination centres were initially not experienced with the procedures, and the vaccination volume is very high, so we required a system that is very user-friendly, enhances efficiency of operations, and provides clinical safety features," said Mr Liang.

To ensure a smooth vaccination process, the team at IHiS worked swiftly to roll out a series of enhancements to the GPConnect system, an integrated IT system that is currently used by the majority of healthcare operators running the vaccination programme.

The system, originally designed for general practitioners here, has also earlier been adapted for use at Community Care Facilities, which houses low-risk Covid-19 patients. (see amendment note)

In less than six months, IHiS has released seven versions of GPConnect, each one enhanced to better serve the needs of its users. These improvements include the auto-populating of vaccine cards, which improves the efficiency as staff do not have to manually fill in the data.

At the same time, IHiS also worked to include an in-built "time-ticker" in the software, which monitors the whole duration in which one has to remain under observation to ensure there are no major side effects.

As a result of these features, a vaccination process now takes an average of 35 to 40 minutes, including a half-hour observation period after the jab. (see amendment note)

To better prepare itself for more large-scale vaccination exercises as an increasing number of people are eligible for the shots, IHiS has also been working with various partners to continuously improve the system's resilience. The software now has a backup version, with a second backup on its way.

"Vaccination operation is a key priority in the country right now, so we developed contingency solutions to the primary technology system," said Mr Liang.

The agency is also collaborating with the Ministry of Health in preparation to vaccinate those aged 12 to 15. Last week, the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective for adolescents in this age group.

"We are constantly learning about Covid-19 and adapting our care protocols and management strategies to manage it. We have to be ready to adapt to any changes," said Mr Liang.

Amendment note
: An earlier version of this article stated that the CCFs housed those on quarantine orders and that jabs took 35 to 40 minutes. CCFs houses low-risk Covid-19 patients and jabs take an average of 35 to 40 minutes. The article has been amended to reflect the changes.

Source: The Business Times @ Singapore Press Holdings Limited | Reproduced with permission.

 

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