Deployment of the My Turn COVID-19 vaccination eligibility website recently has already yielded millions of registrations, hundreds of thousands of shots in arms — and some significant technology takeaways.
The website, myturn.ca.gov, was deployed late last month as a collaboration among state officials; the technology companies Accenture, Salesforce and Skedulo; and the counties of Los Angeles and San Diego, which were the first to pilot the site. The reach and impact of My Turn, which lets Californians learn when they’re eligible to be vaccinated and book their shots, are likely to continue to grow. The lessons learned are already considerable, David Cardenas, chief information officer for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, told Techwire. Among the takeaways:
- State-county discussions about the site began in early December, Cardenas said. But the actual build, which involved officials and staff from both jurisdictions, took about 10 days from the time contracts were signed in mid-January to Jan. 19, when the public-facing component was up and running; and to Jan. 21 and 22 when pilot sites for the two counties went live.
“We had a very, very aggressive timeline. There’s no shortage of interest in trying to get the vaccine, and so it was really kind of an all-hands effort,” Cardenas said. “We’ve had so many situations where we’ve had to lean on each other and work together in a really strong collaborative way — it really came out and showed itself during these moments, so we’re just really proud of the engagement and the way we have been able to partner up to this point.”
State CIO Amy Tong, director of the California Department of Technology (CDT), affirmed via email that the California Department of Public Health and CDT partnered with L.A. County to build and pilot myturn.ca.gov.
“Los Angeles County made crucial design decisions to make My Turn work in their jurisdiction during the pilot phase. The site streamlines the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines through county clinics and mega-vaccine events managed by local health departments, medical providers and CalOES/FEMA,” Tong said, referring to the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Following the two counties, locations in San Francisco and Oakland that use the technology have come online, Tong said, indicating other counties will follow. More than 2 million Californians have used the site to register and learn their eligibility, she said, and more than 382,000 vaccinations have been completed as a result.
- For the county, the development need centered on a solution or solutions that could handle the tracking and scheduling of vaccine appointments as well as clinic site setup, appointment registration and vaccine administration details, Cardenas said. The project was initially called LAVax, and would use Accenture technology — and would connect via interface to CalVax, the state vaccination signup website. After a discussion with state officials, however, Los Angeles County officials decided to join the initiative and become the lead county to pilot the solution. It comprises three main components, the CIO said: My Turn “provider,” powered by Salesforce, which providers will utilize around vaccine receipt; the My Turn “public” site, where residents can go to sign up, which relies on technology from Skedulo; and the My Turn clinic element, which officials use to access appointment records when residents receive their actual shots at a county drive-through; it’s powered by Salesforce.
- Cardenas estimated the new solutions have reduced the time residents require to receive the vaccine at a drive-through — meeting a clinician to getting the shot — from more than five minutes to less than half that. Throughput and training, he said, have been improved, and the interface has been accomplished in just four to five intuitively designed screens.
“Our expansion goal for the state is that they push out to all counties; our goal within the county is to push out to more providers so that we can get a much more consistent experience across all the major sites where people might be vaccinated, so that we’re not seeing a lot of people struggling, having to jump from appointment system to appointment system to get their vaccine,” he said. It’s unclear whether this initiative will yield other IT contracts, but Cardenas said connecting with residents who aren’t tech-savvy remains a “huge focus,” adding: “I think if there’s ever a place where we’re going to be focusing our attention from a technical standpoint, it would be trying to solve that problem … .”
- For other governments contemplating a similar project or engagement, he recommended keeping the process streamlined and expectations minimal. In creating the system, Cardenas said, officials tried to not overcomplicate things and asked, “what are the absolute requirements that we have.” Doing so — and avoiding making a My Turn visit a “very significant data collection experience that would prolong the encounter,” helped on throughput.
- An entity’s infrastructure may be a limiting factor, the CIO said, noting that L.A. County currently runs “five large megapod sites.” He praised the county’s infrastructure response team, which has helped set up local networks and Wi-Fi, as well as county IT support teams — noting this support structure “is going to be heavily leaned on” as clinics are set up.