Dr. B: Putting Every COVID-19 Vaccine to Use

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Image credit: www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/AndreyPopov

Within the United States, the covid vaccination picture didn’t roll out exactly as anticipated. Americans were left scrambling to find an appointment slot for virtually every risk factor with the rough start in December. Contending with limited vaccine supply, appointment calendars crashing online, and the short shelf life of cold storage vaccines, excessive lineups for clinics, finding a reliable appointment wasn’t the easiest. Many waited in line for hours, hoping for cancelations, no-shows, or extra doses that would otherwise expire. For some, this tactic proved successful. For others, it was exhausting, unattainable, and just simply heartbreaking.

Cyrus Massoumi wanted to ensure that every COVID-19 vaccine was getting into the arms of waiting patients instead of ending up in the trash. As the former CEO of a doctor appointment-booking company, Massoumi developed an online platform as a virtual standby list. Dr. B is a website that matches vaccine providers with extra vaccines to individuals willing to get one on short notice.

At the end of the program’s registration, nearly 2.5 million participants signed up in the hope of a vaccine.

Developing a Platform the Helps

In January, the website came to life when Massoumi recruited multiple engineers from Haven and Microsoft. CEOs of Parsley Health, Cedar, and Juno Medical are the website’s medical advisers. Likewise, Tom Lee, founder of One Medical, and Toyin Ajayi of Cityblock Health also serve as medical advisers on the platform.

Massoumi noticed an issue with vaccine distribution when considering the platform: unused vaccines being thrown out instead of used. The founder wanted to do their part, getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible. He also wanted to reduce the level of vaccine expiration, combining both goals into one streamlined system.

Understanding the Website

The domain’s name comes from Massoumi’s grandfather, nicknamed Dr. Bubba; he was a significant influence in Massoumi’s life, running as a doctor during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Currently, over 750 different vaccine providers have joined the project, committed to getting more people into the office, if possible. As of today’s date, more than a million vaccines have been distributed thanks to the website’s matching functionality.

Among the over 750 providers, coverage spanned across 44 states, with pharmacies, clinics, doctor’s offices, and large academic institutions joining the fight.

How Does Registration Work?

Interested individuals join the standby list through a comprehensive registration program. Users will have to input their complete name, address, email, phone number, health issues, and current place of employment. Data collected helps determine the service hierarchy, starting with high-risk individuals and making its way down to the lowest risk brackets.

Once registered, clinics will update the website if they have any surplus of vaccines. The list automatically cross-references against anyone within the zip code of the clinic, along with the current individual’s status (high or low risk). Text messages go to qualified individuals within that geographical location, giving them fifteen minutes to confirm the vaccination.

Comparison Against Standard Vaccine Booking

Unfortunately, many individuals were left in the dark regarding vaccine registration. Many websites couldn’t hold the influx of traffic, causing them to crash under the pressure of the increased usage. Additionally, booking slots filled quickly, leaving users frustrated at the lottery-style booking instead of holding specific places during registration. The booking also left many populations without access to reliable internet connections or language barriers.

Dr. B allows client registration, giving access to at-risk communities, along with underserved nationalities. The vaccine matching connects people to shots that would otherwise end up in the landfill while maintaining priority sequencing. All vaccine bookings were based on government guidelines, starting with high-risk candidates (like seniors or immunocompromised), and went through the lists accordingly.

The queuing system was fairer than the “right place, right time” mentality many people adhered to when trying to get the jab. Many community members were left waiting in clinics, pharmacies, and medical buildings, trying to get a surplus vaccine at the end of the day.

Intentional Spreading of Information

Rather than heading to major news outlets within the United States, Massoumi intentionally went to communities of color first. He also began forging connections with NAACP, Community Action Network, iHeartRadio’s Spanish-speaking channels, and the Indian Health Service. These communities are often under-represented in healthcare reforms, making them less likely to receive medical care. Massoumi believes all communities deserve equal opportunity in receiving the vaccine.

How are Vaccine Surplus Recorded?

When a provider expects to have leftover vaccines, they visit the provider portal on the website. From there, they simply plug in the number of residual doses and the timeframe they must be administered. The algorithm on Dr. B’s then sorts through the list of individuals who have signed up for the free service. It then prioritizes these contacts based on state regulations and local criteria.

Individuals are contacted by text message, asking individuals to confirm the appointment. Should someone decline the appointment or not respond, the site reassigns the dose to someone else on the waiting list.

Patient information is sent to the matching provider to confirm eligibility in person. The platform does promise not to share, sell, or transfer any health data to third parties. HIPAA regulates the sharing of data and personal information with other HIPAA-covered entities. All information on the website follows strict compliance to ensure all data is kept secure.

All data on the platform is encrypted both at rest and in transit. Although the website is not covered under HIPAA, they adhere to strict healthcare standards. All personal information collected is kept confidential, with a solid understanding of the importance of organizational and technical practices to keep data safe. With the additional vaccine distribution, users can access surplus vaccines when scarcity is highest.

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