Qualtrics Emphasizes Engagement to Administer COVID Vaccine

Another company has announced a vaccine management solution, this one especially focused on convincing people to take the vaccine by monitoring and addressing the obstacles of public opinion.

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
Governments around the world are preparing for a project unprecedented in scale for most of them: the dissemination of a COVID-19 vaccine to as many people as possible. After helping governments meet earlier challenges of the pandemic, such as contact tracing and the transition to telework, several software companies have announced new products to help manage rollout of the forthcoming vaccine.

The latest company to do so, the customer research company Qualtrics, is betting that success will depend upon consistent, quality citizen engagement.

Qualtrics last week became at least the third company to announce new vaccine management software, after Accenture earlier this month and Salesforce in September. According to the company’s news release, Qualtrics Vaccine Management + Citizen Experience gives governments an automated workflow to prioritize who gets the vaccine first, schedule appointments and follow-ups, record each dose and continually monitor patients who receive them. For the most part, these features are shared among the vaccine management solutions announced to date.

Chelsie Bright, Qualtrics' global industry leader of public sector, said her company’s experience helping clients understand their customers, or constituents, is a distinguishing factor in how they built their vaccine management solution. Founded in 2002, Qualtrics is a subscription software platform that helps clients collect and respond to feedback. Bright said the company started working with educational institutions at first, then transitioned to serving corporate clients and then government about five years ago. Today, it serves more than 350 state and local governments in the U.S. In March 2020, like so many other companies, Qualtrics started focusing on the public health space, particularly helping public agencies track public sentiment around clinical assessments and testing for COVID-19.

She said the next phase of this public health crisis — administering and tracking doses of the vaccine — will require systems to monitor and respond to the public that most governments just don’t have.

“One of the things that’s going to make this so challenging is that we’ve never had a vaccine rollout of this size and scale,” she said. “I don’t know that there’s a one-size-fits-all answer. That’s part of why you need to be attuned to what’s happening in your local community and understanding the needs of that population and how those are going to change significantly across different demographic groups.”

Bright said Qualtrics conducted national research on what’s driving people’s perceptions of the forthcoming vaccine, and they found different groups have different concerns. As an example, she said some people were more likely to trust the vaccine if recommended by their physician, so one thing local governments could do to convince people to take it is partner with local health-care providers.

To give public health agencies or other government customers these kinds of insights, Qualtrics’ vaccine management software comes with feedback checkpoints, or prompts to track how people feel about the process throughout: after setting up an appointment for vaccination, after getting it, after getting checkups and later, monitoring for problems or adverse effects. Bright said these could come through text messages, phone calls, social media or even in-person visits, but the important thing is getting current and frequent feedback and responding to it, because that significantly increases the public’s trust.

According to the news release, a recent Qualtrics study found that less than 60 percent of respondents had confidence in their state government to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to their community, and over 40 percent said they were either unsure about or opposed to getting the vaccine.

Bright said reaching these people, especially those without smartphones, is a challenge for which local governments must be prepared.

“We have quite a bit of experience with this process based on the work that we’ve done helping to schedule COVID testing in a number of states, and we usually partner with a call center so that people with (Internet) accessibility issues have the option to either call … and then they also have the option to print things, so if they want to go and do that in a library or public computer, they can absolutely do it that way,” she said. “They could also have … potential walk-ups that are actually managed and the process is filled out in person with local health workers.”

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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