Dr. B Review: How Technology Played a Role in Vaccine Distribution

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When the COVID-19 vaccine launched in early 2021, it seemed everyone was trying to find that elusive vaccine appointment. As appointments quickly filled, any extra vaccines from cancelations or no-shows required healthcare professionals to administer the dose within hours of removal from cold storage. Prior to Dr. B, healthcare workers offered any surplus of vaccines to shoppers within the facility or those receiving a phone call for immediate vaccination openings. Unfortunately, this method wasn’t always successful; many situations prevented timely vaccine administration. In these situations, the healthcare team discarded the expired doses.

To reduce vaccine waste, Cyrus Massoumi started Dr. B. The website connected interested individuals with an available COVID-19 dose to prevent unnecessary waste of a valuable resource. The program was free for both clinics and individuals, with 755 different clinics registering last year. By the end of the registration, 2.5 million users registered on Dr. B’s website.

What Happened During the Vaccine Rollout?

As vaccine distribution began in early 2021, individual states developed criteria and protocols for individual vaccine qualification. Eligibility was determined generically, factoring an individual’s health, pre-existing health conditions, employment, and age into priority sequencing. When individuals met the outlined protocols or criteria, they could book an appointment with a local clinic. Unfortunately, a surge in vaccine requests meant difficulty in booking appointments.

Vaccine scarcity continued as governments began loosening initial vaccine eligibility restrictions. Inability to register for online appointments surged, with many individuals struggling with websites crashing, limited vaccine appointments, and minimal support for troubleshooting problems. The frustration with vaccine scarcity continued for many, forming extensive queues and long lineups at facilities, hoping to receive an extra dose of the vaccine.

Without a universal standby list, clinics were at the hands of online scheduling. Clinics removed vaccines from cold storage for daily appointments based on confirmed appointments online. Many clinics suffered from last-minute cancellations, leaving nearly 30% vaccine surplus due to no-shows. The onus fell on the facility to try and fill the COVID-19 vaccine overstock. Vaccine administration was time-sensitive, thanks to the expiry within hours of removal from storage. Despite continued nationwide medication shortages, vaccines that couldn’t be administered before the outlined expiry were discarded.

How Did Dr. B Help Reduce Vaccine Waste?

Finding a private or public clinic with available vaccines during the initial rollout was nearly impossible. Cyrus Massoumi wanted to connect clinics with available vaccines to interested candidates to prevent vaccine waste overall. Both individuals wanting the COVID-19 vaccine and clinics administering the shot could register through the platform.

The Dr. B vaccine list had interested parties complete a simple online registration form to join the waitlist. The information collected included geographic location, name, address, contact information, employment details, and ongoing health conditions.

After joining, the site’s algorithm automatically categorized applications by priority and placeholder status within the category. Dr. B used the risk categories and qualifications of an individual state and closely followed any updates or changes to these qualifying details. A candidate would automatically receive a notification when a nearby clinic had a surplus vaccine available.

What Happens to the Information Collected?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) doesn’t govern Dr. B’s website or information. Regardless, Massoumi believed in holding all medical information to the same standards outlined by HIPAA. The platform offered bank-level encryption, keeping all confidential information secure on the website. 

Explaining the Notification Process

A registered clinic would upload the expected surplus of COVID-19 vaccinations (including quantity and expiry) on the Dr. B website. From there, the Dr. B website would cross-reference anyone registered within the geographical area for availability. Qualified candidates received a text message from Dr. B of an appointment opening. The patient confirmed the appointment if interested, and the clinic received confirmation.

The website algorithm moved individuals having to decline a vaccine appointment to the back of their appropriate category. Dr. B then contacted the next available candidate with the vaccine information until someone could take the appointment.

How Did Dr. B Perform Overall?

During the initial launch, Dr. B had two online registered clinics. As word of the platform continued to grow, so did the individual and clinic registrations. At the end of the campaign, Dr. B held over 755 different vaccine locations across the United States. Individual registrations exceeded 2.5 million registrations by the end of the campaign. As a start-up company, Dr. B successfully sent out over one million vaccine notifications to potential candidates.