Healthdirect Australia puts up funding to enable online booking at vaccine clinics

Healthdirect Australia, the country’s national public health information service, has announced a funding offer for online booking service providers to set up online booking systems at vaccine clinics and integrate them with the government’s official vaccine clinic search and booking portal, Vaccine Clinic Finder.

Available in 16 languages, the said portal is the only system in the country that shows vaccine appointments across clinics registered with the National COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce. 

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

The offer tasks booking providers to build an API according to the specifications of the federal agency to enable the integration of vaccination service providers with the Vaccine Clinic Finder. 

They will create a contextualised booking URL to the Healthdirect national infrastructure, which will then provide users with in-context appointment booking details, such as vaccine brand. 

The industry-wide offer can be tapped by eligible online booking service providers who have an existing product currently used by at least 10 approved COVID-19 vaccine service providers. 

Moreover, the government offer requires the software vendors to onboard vaccination clinics to their booking system and ensure available appointments are made within the system. Eligible clinics include Aboriginal Community Controlled health services, pharmacies and GP clinics approved by the Department of Health to provide COVID-19 vaccinations.

Healthdirect is accepting applications for the offer until 20 September.

WHY IT MATTERS

In a statement, Healthdirect said having more clinics integrated with the Vaccine Clinic Finder will make it easier for Australians to find their preferred vaccination clinic and book an appointment. Presently, “less than half” of government-approved COVID-19 vaccine clinics have an online booking system connected to the search portal; a number of vaccine clinics only allows telephone bookings. 

Their integration thus will reduce the need for Australians to telephone clinics, search multiple booking platforms or present themselves at clinics without prior booking. Moreover, online bookings can help alleviate the administrative burden on the providers’ end. 

THE LARGER CONTEXT

Australia is picking up the pace of its vaccination programme by procuring more COVID-19 vaccine vials and making more people eligible to get their jabs over the coming months. These factors, according to Healthdirect, will place immense pressure on vaccination providers.

Starting this week, providers will deliver vaccine jabs to young people aged 12 to 15.

Records from the Australian Immunisation Register showed that as of Monday, the country administered around 23 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with nearly 9 million Australians or around 43% of the population fully inoculated. The federal government is targeting to vaccinate 80% of its population by yearend.

ON THE RECORD

Commenting about the offer, Healthdirect Australia CEO Bettina McMahon said: “Not only will this help our effort to vaccinate the nation [but] it will [also] lay the foundation for online vaccine and other bookings beyond 2021 for many practices and pharmacies which have not yet set up these systems.”

“Real-time integration of online booking systems with the Vaccine Clinic Finder, as well as other sites, such as built by the Pharmacy Guild, give consumers the opportunity to get their vaccination at the time and place they choose. This is an important step toward reaching our vaccination targets,” Trent Twomey, national president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, also stated.

“The technology has minimal impact on the workflows of existing platforms, ensuring seamless integration — one that we strongly encourage industry to get behind,” Chris Freeman, national president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, said about the Vaccine Clinic Finder.

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