Written by Michael Frenn, Administrator of the Solano County Emergency Medical Services Agency, a bureau in the Public Health Department.

The Solano County, California, Public Health and Social Services Department takes the health and quality of life of its community seriously and is preparing ahead of time to safeguard them from any emerging health threats such as a flu pandemic. They organized a large preparedness drill in the Fall, just prior to the typical flu season, and utilized digital pen and paper technology to streamline the process of treating thousands of people quickly.

In the event of an actual emerging flu pandemic, the Solano County Public Health and Social Services knew it would need to be able to treat as many of its inhabitants as possible in as short a time as possible. In order to achieve this, they used digital pen and paper technology, invented by Anoto Group AB, to assist in a practice drill involving volunteer participants from the public to receive real doses of the year's seasonal flu vaccine.

The ultimate goal of the exercise was to achieve a vaccination rate established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This rate was possible based on the process rate from the county's exercise in which the digital pen and paper system was tested. The general public, a total of 267 patients, filled out their personal health surveys with these special pens, a new technology being increasingly used in hospitals and nursing homes around the country. The details from each survey determined whether the patient should be seen by a nurse for further screening prior to receiving the vaccine, and the pen was able to capture their information, process it immediately, and alert a nurse.

Any size pandemic has the potential of changing our lives, which is why Solano County Public Health and Social Services provided the public with free flu shots, thereby realistically dispensing mass numbers of doses of vaccine in a simulated pandemic situation. Using the innovative digital pen and paper technology, they achieved the speed, easy of use, and efficiency needed to safely process patients.

"Solano County Public Health is constantly working to prepare for public health emergencies, including the very real possibility of a pandemic flu," said Robin Cox, Health Education Manager for Solano County Public Health. "This technology gave the county healthcare professionals the critical patient information in real time to ensure that they were able to administer the flu vaccine to patients who would not have an adverse reaction. They were also able to assess the geographic locations that need additional communications of the US. Dept. of Health's message," Cox continued.

Setting up the system

The Solano County team spent weeks preparing for this flu vaccination event, which utilized the services of 101 county employees, including doctors, nurses, health educators, the Public Information Officer, and numerous county line staff. Arthur James, president of IS2BE who developed digital pen and paper technology for the program, provided approximately 100 pens in addition to the development of the survey templates. In the event 267 members of the public participated and were screened, with 265 receiving vaccinations. Two patients were deemed potentially allergic to the vaccine and therefore were not administered with it.

The data collected by the system was critical to the screening process by helping non-medical staff determine whether the patient would need to be seen in a second screening process by a nurse. In this landmark trial, speed was a paramount component to achieving Solano County's objective of vaccination. The contributing factor of success was the digital pen and paper system ability to immediately collect and process the health history and contact details of each patient in real time.