UCHealth, like all health systems across the state of Colorado, are following the guidance of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). As the guidelines change (sometimes daily!), we adjust. Our supply of COVID-19 Vaccine is closely tracked, and each next shipment depends on our adherence to guidelines.
We are now opening up vaccination signups to segments of the general public beyond health care workers (click here to view the CDPHE guidelines). Based on the state’s plan, UCHealth is focusing efforts on vaccinations for people 70 years old and older. You do not need to be a patient to get vaccinated.
How it works
Keep in mind that most health systems in Colorado are working on vaccine distribution. Please first check with your primary care provider or primary health system.
- For those over 70 with interest in getting their vaccine from UCHealth, we will use My Health Connection, the patient portal for our EHR, to communicate. If you have an active My Health Connection account, you will automatically receive updates regarding the vaccine. If you do not have an active My Health Connection account, please create one. To learn more, visit uchealth.org/covidvaccine.
- Over 80 percent of patients at UCHealth have a MHC account, and we’ll be using our EHR to determine which of our patients meet the criteria for vaccine (currently, using date-of-birth to calculate age 70+).
- You don’t have to be an existing UCHealth patient or be seeing a UCHealth provider to create an MHC account and to indicate your interest in the COVID-19 Vaccine.
- You will need to have an email address and be able to access the patient portal yourself. You may have a proxy (trusted designee) sign up for you; keep in mind that this proxy would also potentially have access to your UCHealth records as well.
- At this time, we do not have enough vaccine doses to offer it to everyone. As UCHealth receives shipments of the vaccine, we are providing it as quickly as possible, according to the state’s plan. As we receive additional quantities, we will send invitations through our randomized selection process to give everyone the same chance of receiving a vaccine.
- When vaccine becomes available to your phase of distribution, you will receive an invitation from My Health Connection with instructions about how to schedule your vaccine appointments. Please be patient until you see the message titled “Urgent: Schedule your COVID-19 vaccine.” When you receive this message, you will be able to schedule both vaccine doses. You will have 48 hours to get your appointments scheduled. If you miss the 48-hour time frame, you will receive a new opportunity to schedule in a future distribution phase.
- An appointment is required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine; walk-ins cannot be accommodated.
- For the most current information regarding COVID-19 vaccines, visit UCHealth’s COVID-19 vaccine page.
The EHR is our superpower
This process has worked well for our first 37,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, and we plan on scaling up further as availability improves.
Some may criticize us for using an electronic patient portal and perhaps leaving out those without access to the internet. (I have even heard the term “digitalism.” However, looking that up, it seems to mean “being poisoned by digitalis from the foxglove plant.” Hmm… but we digress.)
At the same time, we’re putting plans in place to ensure that those without access to a computer or smartphone also have access to the vaccine. Through phone hotlines, clinics that target low-income areas of the state, and outreach to underserved communities, we aim to provide the vaccine fairly to everyone. Some of these efforts have already begun.
Our main point in leveraging the patient portal was that, using our existing infrastructure where we already have nearly 1 million patients, we could move quickly, filter our patients by age, and create and send invitations thousands at a time. This contrasts with those who might have to postal-mail invitations or make phone calls and set up (and staff-up!) a phone bank, that could take days and weeks.
We launched the invitation and scheduling process over one weekend (thank you, and sorry to our IT and project leaders who built this) and offered vaccines the next weekday after receipt of our first batch. I’m so grateful to work with such amazing colleagues and their amazing teams, and grateful that we have an existing information technology infrastructure that allows this. The EHR is our superpower.
CMIO’s take? We are excited to be part of the solution for our community throughout Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region!
[This piece was originally published on The Undiscovered Country, a blog written by CT Lin, MD, CMIO at UCHealth and professor at University of Colorado School of Medicine. To follow him on Twitter, click here.]