Throughout Denver Health’s efforts to vaccinate against the pandemic, the struggle has been to effectively bring people into the system who don’t already have patient records in the healthcare system without burdening call centers.


As a health advocacy system on the Denver Metro, Denver Health vaccinated many people who were not regular patients. Early on, the health system created a vaccine interest form, created by IT teams in a separate database, that allowed any member of the public to put their name on a waiting list for an appointment when vaccines were available in the health system.

“We then used that database to get contact information and send people online vaccination appointment tickets without having a Denver Health Portal account,” said Dr. Ann Boyer, Chief Medical Information Officer at Denver Health.

“It was a very manual process for our IT teams who used a table in the database to get thousands of names based on age and eligibility criteria and then enter them into a tool we created to send an email with a scheduling code.

“In order for our people to plan online, they needed to make sure we didn’t have duplicate accounts, usually going through an identity verification process with known information,” she continued. “Our seniors often found it difficult to navigate the patient compliance issues required to create an account on our Patient Portal.”

With childhood vaccinations due in the spring of 2021, staff knew that gaining access to schedules for thousands of children in Denver public schools would be a burden on call centers.

“Our pediatric MyChart numbers have been quite low compared to our adult population and we have partnered with Denver Public Schools to make sure we can offer vaccines to the tens of thousands of kids aged 12 and over who may not have a Denver Health account. “. Boyer explained. “We handled ages 16 and over with our old method by sending unique generated DPS schedule codes and instructions to all students aged 16 and over in April 2021.

“However, it was a very time-consuming process,” she continued. “This was also complicated by the DPS spam filters and it was assumed that students would pass on the information/code to their parents and receive signed consents.”


The Open Scheduling system of electronic health record provider Epic will allow Denver Health to move to a less manual approach by allowing people who want to make an appointment to click a link on a health system website or a community partner website (such as Denver Public Schools) and search for place and vaccine. they wanted without being already a patient.

“Our patients can also use these tools or log into their MyChart patient portal account and schedule from there,” Boyer said. “The open schedule for us came about at a time when vaccine supplies were less limited and eligibility criteria were less stringent, so the need for a waiting list and our previous prioritization tools was no longer required.

“This has allowed our clinics to have a certain number of vaccines available for open planning, while still reserving a few slots for our at-risk patients,” she added.


There are many electronic health record providers on the market today, including Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, eClinicalWorks, Epic, Greenway Health, Medicomp Systems, Meditech, Medsphere Systems, and NextGen Healthcare.


The Open Scheduling system allows people who have never seen Denver Health to make an appointment. This is an important tool for vaccination as the provider is trying to reach a wider population that may not have access to vaccines elsewhere (especially early in a pandemic).

“We set our sights on Open Scheduling as soon as we had enough vaccine supplies in late spring 2021 when the vaccines were open to the general public,” Boyer recalled. “We took the opportunity to create specific URLs for certain clinics — just our school health centers and school mass vaccination sites — to target children and their families.

“We sent these special URLs to Denver Public Schools to post on their website and send school messages to families, and sent directly to children in their DPS emails so they can sign up for vaccines at certain Denver Health-focused facilities. Pfizer vaccines. which have been approved for children,” she continued.

Community clinics were able to add Open Scheduling blocks to their schedules after offering Denver Health regular patients as a way to offer vaccines at clinics throughout the Denver Health metro area if we had vaccine availability, but still give clinics the ability to serve their patients first. . . Given the clinics are FQHC, Denver Health wanted to protect access to its at-risk patients.

The Denver Health public website had links to Open Scheduling for each vaccine manufacturer or the first available.


Without open scheduling and direct scheduling, call center call volumes would be hard to absorb, especially in April/May 2021 and November/December 2021 when new age groups were approved.

About 20% of appointments for people aged 18 and under were scheduled using the open schedule, especially in the first few weeks after these age groups were approved (25-35% using the open schedule in May and November 2021).

For primary vaccines in people aged 18 years and under, in May 2021, 25% were obtained through Open Scheduling (884 patients), 14% through MyChart (495 patients) and 62% through the call center (2236 patients).

In November 2021, for patients 5–11, 37% were admitted through the open schedule (2412 patients), 22% through MyChart (1467 patients), and 40% through the call center (2668 patients).


“Enabling patients to self-service for appointments is very important,” Boyer said. “Some people won’t sit around waiting for hours to get an appointment. Self-service tools give patients more control over the time and place of their appointments, but also eliminate the need for additional staff when there is a spike in registrations.

“Think of flu shots as the perfect opportunity to do this,” she concluded. “Seasonal spikes in demand. Posting a scheduling opportunity on your public website, or even links from community partners, allows health systems to make appointments in areas of opportunity with people new to your healthcare system, while keeping other areas that don’t have the opportunity reserved for selected patients. population”.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Write to the author: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media.

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