The idea came to Dr. Achim Wallau at the end of December. "I thought to myself: Surely it can't be that the professionals are left out," he now says just under three months later - shortly before the "Vaccination Planner 4.0" can be launched in the midst of the third wave in the Corona pandemic. By "professionals," Wallau means primary care physicians, who, in his opinion, should have long been the interface of the vaccination campaign in Germany, but will not really get involved until mid-April. He developed the vaccination planner with the tech company Navatec from Heilbronn. The developers' goal is quite simple: to start at the "bottleneck" of the vaccination campaign and shorten the duration of the vaccination schedule to a minimum.
There are four points at which the "crisis platform," as Wallau calls it, starts: Data collection, patient education, appointment scheduling, and logistics. The software first prepares the patient's data and organizes the patient's information about the risks of the vaccination. Among other things, the software saves a great deal of time by enabling patients to receive information about vaccination by telephone prior to their appointment. This eliminates the sometimes lengthy conversation on site at the vaccination center or practice. Since the majority of Germans are admitted to a general practitioner's office, data collection in this way is simple.
The general practitioner knows about possible pre-existing conditions and is aware of when a patient is due based on priority groups. Normally, patients are supposed to report to the doctor - but if a practice notices that it is already a patient's turn but he or she has not reported, a vaccination appointment is made in this way.
Using a central database, the vaccination planner books an appointment and reminds the person who wants to be vaccinated of it. This is to ensure that all the necessary steps for vaccination are completed before the appointment.
Instead of 180,000 vaccinations per day, up to one million could be possible if the software were used nationwide, Wallau calculates. Because: Instead of up to 50 minutes, the appointments should only take ten minutes thanks to the advance work. Because vaccine deliveries are being ramped up, five times as many vaccinations are possible as before. Even now, more would be possible, but bureaucracy in the countries often prevents this.
"Ultimately, it works like a prescription that the primary care physician writes," says co-developer Wallau, who is himself a practicing physician and director of a health and immunization center. "Patients get a barcode that they use to go to their immunization appointment at the doctor's office or immunization center. They then present that like an airline ticket."
The software relies on artificial intelligence, requires few personnel
Why should it be so much faster and smoother than before? Because the software is built on artificial intelligence and requires fewer staff. It's meant to bundle many steps that would otherwise require arrangements.
According to Navatec, the vaccination planner also includes an ordering system for vaccination practices. The software always has an exact overview of how much vaccine is currently in stock and where, and how much needs to be ordered or relocated due to changing order lists.
As a family doctor himself, Wallau believes that the vaccination campaign could proceed much less bureaucratically if they were part of it now. "Family doctors know their patients and their individual histories and conditions - they simply know best and are therefore ideally suited to take on the role of first point of contact and coordination hub," says Wallau.
He reports cases where people already vaccinated with the Biontech vaccine received an invitation to the Astrazeneca vaccine two days before their second vaccination - because there was no control mechanism through a central database. This could be prevented by artificial intelligence, Andreas Steinbauer, sales manager at Navatec, is certain.
Navatec actually wanted to build ticketing platform
The fact that Wallau and Navatec came together has two things to do with the pandemic. On the one hand, the need for such a platform only became necessary as a result. On the other hand, Wallau learned from an acquaintance that Navatec was working on a ticketing platform - which is currently not needed because of the pandemic.
The idea was initially to optimize the planned ticketing platform so that it could be used for scheduling vaccination appointments. For example, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has had good experience working with the ticketing agency Eventim. However, Navatec then decided to build a completely new software. Last summer, Navatec had already coordinated the allocation of appointments in swimming pools with a software in Baden-Württemberg.
Navatec was not aware of any other company planning such software, he said. Its vaccination planner could be ready to go as early as 14 days from now, says sales manager Steinbauer: "The software is now on a high-security server and will still undergo a stress test." Initial talks with state governments have already taken place.
The project has already been presented to the state of Hesse and the head of the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of Health. Navatec is working on possibly entering into talks with the federal government soon. "We are ready for the software to be used quickly," says Steinbauer.
Photo by Markus Winkler