How AT&T Technology for Healthcare Is Playing a Role in the Distribution of the COVID-19 Vaccine

Joe Drygas, VP – AT&T Healthcare Industry Solutions

As parts of the country experience fluctuations in COVID-19 cases, distribution of the new vaccine is crucial. And technology is playing an important role in that process. Through innovative solutions, AT&T is helping healthcare organizations ensure those who need the vaccine get it.

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Vaccine Location Tracking

One of the biggest challenges with getting the vaccine to as many people as possible is logistics. But with a tracking solution like our IoT Fleet Management, the location of the vaccine can be tracked from production to clinic. AT&T provides the network connectivity for many of the shipping companies that are playing an integral part in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. We support the connections that enable companies to see in near real-time where the vaccines are in the distribution process. We also created an internal “command center” to help expedite the turn-up of services for these designated customers taking part in this critical mission.

Vaccine Temperature and Cold Storage Monitoring 

Add to the logistical challenge the strict temperature and storage requirements for the vaccines. The doses must be kept at a certain temperature during transit and once they reach their destination. Our IoT solutions can help with this, enabling companies to monitor the vaccines’ temperature along each step of the distribution process.

Vaccine Patient Communication

Communication is critical in any crisis. And with the complexities involved in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, this couldn’t be truer. Healthcare providers are getting overwhelmed with calls. People want to know when and where they can get the vaccine. AT&T is working with providers to address these challenges. Prisma Health in South Carolina is one example. When hundreds of calls for COVID-19 vaccine information flooded the company’s 800 number, AT&T set up Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to help manage call volumes. IVR is one of our Contact Center Solutions which combines our highly secure network and cloud-based platform and services to deliver patient reminders, SMS notices, voice calls, and call volume management. We also provided Prisma Health with a private data network connection at its pop-up vaccination site. This enabled Prisma to connect back to its data center at the hospital.

Vaccination Site Connectivity

With hospitals and medical centers using pop-up vaccination sites to reach the masses, the need for reliable and secure communication is a must. That’s why several healthcare providers reached out to us for FirstNet® – the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community. It provides highly secure coverage and capacity with available priority communications.

In New Jersey, Capital Health is using FirstNet on tablets and smartphones to check in patients at its Trenton and Hopewell inoculation sites, while Inspira Health Network is using FirstNet for stand-alone hotspots and smartphones with hotspot capability at its vaccination site. Spectrum Health  is also using FirstNet on smartphones at the West Michigan Vaccine Clinic in Grand Rapids. The healthcare provider also used Portable Data Network (PDN) kits at COVID-19 testing sites. A PDN is an all-inclusive mobile suitcase equipped with a modem and FirstNet connectivity that provides highly secure internet access – think ultimate Wi-Fi hotspot – wherever you take it.

Temperature Screening Kiosk and Patient Identity / Check-in Kiosk

Healthcare providers also are taking measures to help safeguard visitors, patients, and employees from exposure to COVID-19. That was the case for Compass Health Network in Missouri. We provided the nonprofit with an integrated solution for its Windsor facility:  a temperature screening kiosk equipped with a touchscreen, camera, thermal imaging and a wireless modem. When someone enters the facility, the kiosk takes the person’s temperature, displays a COVID-19 questionnaire on the touchscreen, and logs-in the person. The automated solution streamlines the check-in process and cuts down on resources. Gone is the paper questionnaire and the need for a staff member to take the temperature of everyone who enters the facility.

Virtual Care and Remote Patient Monitoring
As patients seek ways to safely obtain outpatient care during the pandemic, virtual care has taken front stage. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, many physicians have seen their telehealth visit volume increase by a factor of 50 to 175. And AT&T is helping bring that care to the home through our end-to-end virtual care platform. For example, healthcare provider St. John’s Well Child in Los Angeles uses our Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) solution to provide patients of all ages with medical, dental and mental health services. RPM can enable doctors to track the vitals of a patient, like temperature and blood pressure. Doctors are using the solution to track the vitals of patients who have COVID-19, as well as patients who are receiving doses of the vaccine.

The Future of Health Care

So, what will health care look like post-COVID-19? That remains to be seen. But with virtual care now a part of the new normal, technology will continue to play a key role.

“Healthcare organizations are making the requisite investments in technology to build resilience,” said Lynne A. Dunbrack, group vice president, IDC Health Insights. “According to IDC’s COVID-19 Impact on IT Spending Survey, 47% of healthcare respondents reported that IT spending will be higher than expected in 2021, and on average, 13.2% of reallocated or increased technology expenditures will be to accelerate projects that introduce business model innovation.”

And as health systems look for opportunities to revolutionize care, AT&T will be here to deliver solutions.

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