Use the private sector to accelerate COVID-19 vaccines

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While the development of COVID-19 vaccines at “breakneck speed” has been very impressive, the continued role of the private sector should not be forgotten as we strive to bring vaccines quickly to all those waiting arms. By pooling the resources of two powerful allies, our insurance firms and retired physicians, we can solve this critical distribution problem, also in record time.

As a former CEO of a health insurer, I know that insurance companies can be a key to making sure we all get our COVID vaccinations. They are the custodians of all data on care provided regardless of the environment. Insurers can use this knowledge within privacy guidelines to target those in need of vaccination and use consumer marketing to get them to the right place. However, taking us all to COVID vaccination sites will not be enough without much more staff. Fortunately, millions of retired nurses and doctors are ready to help too. These two assets do not appear to be part of most of the state plans now being announced. It is not enough to focus on getting vaccines to providers or worrying about staffing shortages in hospitals or paying for treatment through the CARES Act. Ensuring that the vaccine actually reaches all of those arms is a management challenge beyond the normal capacity of our stressed health systems. Nurses, in particular, are the most dedicated professionals anywhere who do whatever is necessary for their patients. But they have been retiring at an accelerating rate as baby boomers reach retirement age. Fear of COVID and deteriorating working conditions have driven out more, even despite rapid increases in severance pay. This has created a staffing crisis for providers simply trying to cope with the crush of patients needing general care, and it is worse during this crisis. What will bring these heroes back are the needs of patients and safe ways to volunteer. Some states are actively applying for them, while others still have licensing barriers that prevent registered nurses from administering COVID vaccines. But there are simply not enough pharmacists and doctors to do the job for millions in need. My wife, a nurse who has long since retired from patient care but kept her registered nurse license active “just in case,” said exactly this recently. He would gladly come over if necessary and ask. Fortunately, all states have existing registries of pending clinical volunteers. If these were better known and organized, we would probably have enough staff to do all injections at sites set by healthcare providers, health departments, employers and others without removing staff from patients’ needs. They are out there and you just have to ask them to serve one more time. The second problem is the fractured healthcare system where people receive care. Hospital systems and their affiliated physicians are the largest provider of vaccines. But they only cover a fraction of the care for those they think are their patients. People roam everywhere for care in many places. Getting the information shared across systems has been challenging, although CVS and Walgreen notify providers when they administer injections. However, for almost everyone (except the uninsured), there is one player who knows everything that goes on: our health insurance companies. So, considering this problem, my thoughts turned to these omniscient people. Every time a service is provided, the data eventually enters their systems. All that is needed is a billing code and an insurance number, even if there is no cost to the patient. Additionally, companies such as Humana HUM, -1.53%, UnitedHealth UNH, -0.65%, Kaiser Permanente, and Blue Cross / Blue Shield have become quite aggressive in communicating with their members about the care needed for chronic conditions and the recommended tests to determine the conditions. future needs. . Insurers can guess who needs what treatment from their claims records and encourage compliance through outreach. It’s a good deal as these conditions often lead to much higher claims down the road. Insurers know they will pay more for COVID-19 care in the future if their members do not get vaccinated against the virus as soon as possible. It is in your business interest to make it happen. Furthermore, their data systems are quite capable of generating names, following priorities (such as age groups and challenging conditions) and directing attention to available sites. All it takes is coordination and some programming. However, simply notifying those enrolled in your plans is probably not enough, given the reluctance of many people who have reservations. A new article in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests 12 actions necessary to vaccinate us all. It suggests standard approaches to consumer marketing (such as segmenting the market) and is based on knowledge of behavioral economics (how to frame the decision correctly). We need to replicate the marketing techniques here that we do so well in other areas of commerce, the ones that don’t save lives. Now that the miracle of pharmaceutical innovation has provided us with vaccines in less than a year, it is up to all of us to staff, finance and market in a coherent management framework to get the job done. We cannot let the understaffed public health departments keep us all heading in the same direction. This is too important for the well-being of all those we love and for the future of the economy to do anything less. JB Silvers is a professor of health finance at Case Western Reserve University, a member of the hospital board, and a former CEO of a health insurer. Also Read: ‘The Biggest Data Riddle Of Our Life’: Vaccine Distribution Effort Gets Help From Big Tech Y: America Is Bypassing This Powerful Tool To Loosen The COVID-19 Vaccine Jam