Accenture Announces Vaccine Management Tech for Government

Partially built on the Salesforce platform, Accenture is offering a new set of tools and consulting services for health departments and other agencies to meet unprecedented demand for a vaccine.

A syringe is filled with flu vaccine
A syringe is filled with flu vaccine. The expected COVID-19 immunization campaign now hinges on two small companies.
Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times/TNS
From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, gov tech companies leapt at the chance to sell technology and consulting services to help state and local governments through each stage of managing the crisis, from telework to digital services to contact tracing. The latest phase in the market for COVID-related tech appears to be vaccine management. On the heels of Salesforce announcing vaccine management on its platform last month, the consultancy Accenture is getting into the game with its own vaccine management solution.

The Accenture solution consists of several components, some technical and others service-based, and some of which were partially built on the Salesforce platform, according to a news release. The components aim to help health departments or other government agencies with six key tasks:

  • Vaccine management and tracking, including the registration and scheduling of patients, and following up to see if they have symptoms
  • Supply management, which entails ordering, inventory and forecasting demand
  • Community engagement, to tell citizens where and when the vaccine is available, to whom, in what order
  • Contact management, which will use virtual agents to deal with spikes in call volumes and answer people’s questions
  • Analytics, which will use public health and third-party data to create plans for how to distribute the vaccine based on availability and who needs it most
  • Organizational support, or consulting services to help governments fulfill the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations about overseeing internal planning, vaccine implementation and business process requirements
Explaining the need for these things, Accenture Managing Director of Public Sector Ryan Oakes said many government agencies are facing a project — the universal distribution of a new vaccine — of a kind and scale they’ve never attempted before. Accenture has clients in more than 120 countries, and Oakes said his role is to work with them and with research partners around the world to assess their needs, and for the last seven-odd months, virtually all of Accenture’s clients raised questions related to vaccine management.

“This is very complicated. The full breadth of being able to handle the supply chain component, inventory, tracking, storage, management of how you get providers enrolled, how you track multiple doses — there are many, many complexities that, frankly, states haven’t had to deal with,” he said. “So while many of them have some level, to a substantial level, of technical capabilities for vaccines or this type of work, they don’t have it at this scale.”

In many ways, it’s a new challenge for the private sector, too, but Oakes said Accenture ran a series of workshops with clients to nail down concrete ideas about use cases and priorities so they’d know what components to prioritize, with plans to build out new capabilities over time.

Oakes said Accenture’s vaccine management program contains similar tools with similar capabilities to Salesforce, but it expands upon certain aspects of provider enrollment, inventory management, administration data, resident registration and scheduling.

“If you track some of what occurred in the early March and April timeframe as states sought contact tracing capabilities and program management capabilities, it’s a very similar approach to the clients that we worked with on that set of solutions as well,” he said. “For many of our current clients who have worked with us and partnered with us around contact tracing, this feels more like we’re extending the capabilities that we’ve already helped to stand up.”

If biochemists are correct, in a matter of months, state and local governments will begin deploying millions of doses of a brand new vaccine, urgently and concurrently with every other government. It’s a trial run for a task of civilizational importance that no one foresaw even nine months ago. Asked how governments should approach it, Oakes boiled it down to four things: getting the details of supply chain management right, developing clear distribution guidelines for who gets it first and why, communicating with the public so they’ll actually know how to get the vaccine and why it’s important, and — because there are no guarantees — laying the groundwork so these protocols can be used again in the future, if necessary.

Vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans is a herculean task no one is looking forward to, but if there’s a silver lining, Oakes said, it might be that this is a moment when governments can learn from each other, both their successes and mistakes. Governments around the world, with different policies and partners, are simultaneously attacking the same basic problem. One could argue it would only compound the disaster if, coming out the other side of all this, they didn’t learn as much as they could from it.

“As I talk to my global clients … and I think holistically about what’s happening, and if you look at surging cases in Europe … I’m having the same conversations with those clients as with my U.S. clients,” he said. “This is a moment to take advantage of sharing and collaboration, and bring the very best that you can from around the world. I would really encourage people operating in this difficult space to think about how to build that ongoing development and innovation into their planning, so they’re continuing to look at what else is coming available and what other options they might have.”

Andrew Westrope is managing editor of the Center for Digital Education. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology, and previously was a reporter and editor at community newspapers. He has a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.
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