Laura Clemons

An Inside Look at How Ascension Made It Easy for Their Associates to Get Vaccinated

by Laura Clemons | Jun 24, 2021

With more than 150 hospitals across 19 states, Ascension is one of the largest private healthcare systems in the United States. In November of 2020, the system was faced with a big challenge: How to manage vaccine scheduling for all of its 250,000 associates.

At the Contact Experience Conference (CEC), Saleem Habash, Senior Director, Patient Access and Experience, for Ascension, and Arun Mohan, MD, CEO and Co-Founder, for RadixHealth discussed what a big undertaking the process was — and the lessons learned along the way.

Planning for the project kicked off in November of 2020 and launched about four weeks later. There was no time for delay. Especially in the beginning, the vaccine supply was coming in somewhat haphazardly. The Ascension team had to stay flexible.

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“We built one program, based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Habash says. “But each state evolved differently with vaccine distribution because each governor took a different approach. In the beginning, there were little to no notifications about when the vaccines were coming in and we had to adjust everything day-by-day. For example, one of our markets was given 14,000 doses. We had to administer all of those within six days.”

The overall goal was to vaccinate 250,000 associates. By February of 2021, they’ve had more than 180,000 vaccine appointments scheduled. Total number of doses administered by that time were 281,961 (118,192 first doses; 100,769 send doses).

Appointments were scheduled through the system’s self-service platform called, Dashself. In a survey, 96% of associates said they had a “good” scheduling experience. The team set up a dedicated email address to answer any scheduling questions. However, in the future, Habash said he’d like to have a chat function or a live support person answer any questions that a person might have if they run into any problems with the self-scheduling platform.

Communicating about vaccine availability turned out to be more challenging than Habash thought.

“Some associates only use a personal email address, but we’d send them scheduling emails on their work email,” Habash says. “Sometimes, we’d have home phone numbers on their file versus cell phones. Some associates got duplicated messages about vaccine scheduling; some didn’t get any. All this has spurred our HR team to review the data we have on all of our associates. Just like with patients, we need to find out their preferred method of communication.”

Habash shared three things he wishes he would’ve done differently:

  • Understand market variability: There was so much change and variability to how each state approached the vaccine rollout. Ascension had a “one-size fits all approach,” but knowing what he knows now, Habash thinks they might’ve taken into account the differences of each market. “We would’ve been more tailored,” Habash says.
  • Set-up a registration collection: Habash said that he would’ve liked to find a way to register associates in the front-end before their appointments were scheduled. That way, the team could’ve validated information in the profiles and would’ve had a better way to collect thoughts, questions and concerns upfront.
  • Answer questions: The team didn’t have the resources to answer thousands of phone calls, but Habash thought they could’ve done a better job of offering chat or email function to help fill the gap. “We have to find a way to support people through self-service in a new way,” Habash says.

Between December 2020 and March 2021, 60% of Ascension’s associates were vaccinated.

“Getting the next 10% vaccinated is going to be harder than getting the first 60% vaccinated,” Habash says. “Unfortunately, there’s still some vaccine hesitancy out there. We’re working on new strategies to break through the hesitancy.”

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