By Daniel Burkhardt, Senior Principal
Helping our communities respond to one of the most significant public health crises in human history brings a sense of awe and humility. Recently, I had the privilege of working alongside public sector and healthcare leaders like those in Lake County, Illinois to design and launch a full solution to support vaccine orchestration. Tackling this urgent, human work has been both a professional and personal honor for me and my colleagues.
With that urgency in mind, I'd like to share a few guiding principles of Slalom’s approach to vaccine orchestration. How can vaccine orchestration leaders effectively and equitably provide what they need for their population? It all begins with building trust.
Technology that serves your people
With the first roll outs of vaccine management systems, the focus has largely been on the technology component and its efficacy in helping providers and staff distribute vaccine inventory. But, while inventory and technology are key pieces of the puzzle, they don't constitute the end-to-end, holistic view needed to get vaccines into arms.
For this reason, Slalom has embraced a vaccine orchestration approach—that is, an end-to-end system that ties together vaccine acquisition, scheduling, planning, distribution, administration, and reporting. Significantly, this system must be supported by coordinated people, process, and technology.
The technology piece of vaccine orchestration is obviously crucial. It has real, meaningful consequences for residents when systems cannot provide scheduling capabilities, reliable inventory tracking, or administration records. But focusing exclusively on technology misses a critical step: Technology means nothing if it doesn't serve the people it's built for.
Bringing this people-centric lens to vaccine orchestration is not just nice-to-have, but a need-to-have.
Building trust with every interaction
With every interaction, your vaccine orchestration solution must build trust with the community it will serve. Trust is earned with effort, but it depreciates quickly. If public sector leaders promote a tool that fails on day one or day ten, they will lose trust with their providers, residents, and staff at a time when trust is critical to success. Trust is the single most valuable commodity in driving community response.
Trust is vital when serving a diverse population that includes the elderly, the disabled, people whose native language isn’t English, people with low technology literacy, and people with limited technology access. Does that pull-down menu work in Spanish? Does it work with a screen reader? Are your staff equipped to provide support to individuals without technology access?
Consider this: If you are a person from a population that is not regularly contacted by the government, you need to feel comfortable enough to provide and submit your information. Building that trust may require partnering with community groups, community leaders, churches, and social workers—and doing the hard work of incorporating their feedback into final process and technology designs.
We need to approach vaccine orchestration from the lens of “Who are we building this solution for?“ in balance with “What do we want the solution to do?” It's critical to recognize disparate viewpoints and experiences when tasked with vaccinating entire, diverse communities. Bringing this people-centric lens to vaccine orchestration is not just nice-to-have, but a need-to-have.
People are the North Star
With the stakes so high, it is understandable that rapid action takes priority. And it might be tempting to overlook steps like community outreach, experience design, or change management to meet the need for speed. At Slalom, we’ve heard from many public sector and healthcare leaders that they are facing tough choices, long hours, and incredible contact volumes as residents look for support during an incredibly challenging time.
However, I encourage public sector and healthcare leaders to commit to the steps that create a well-rounded vaccine orchestration solution, to insist upon accounting for the people side of this very technology-focused effort. Building and maintaining trust with the members of your community by providing them with a vaccine experience supported by equitable design is achievable. These community members, these people, must be our North Star.