From the lab to the jab: NHS Scotland drives Covid-19 vaccination with ServiceNow

The global pandemic has of course seen the Covid-19 contagion affect almost every human life on the planet. With global supply chains disrupted, national economies jolted and the very fabric of human endeavour stretched to new limits, this has been a period of disruption like no other.

We all know all of those surface elements, just from listening to the news and talking to colleagues and loved ones. What most of us have less awareness of are the mechanics of the systems that have been working to get us vaccinated, keep us protected and to deliver on the subsequent elements of the pandemic response programme.

Determined to ensure that its nationwide rollout of the vaccination and wider elements of vaccination management were expertly executed, NHS Scotland expanded its pre-existing use of the ServiceNow platform. 


Protecting PPE, personally

With initial ServiceNow footprints for IT Service Management, HR and finance, the Scottish health body moved to expand its use of the Now Platform to look after the safety of its 140,000 staff and ensure that the most vulnerable demographics would be vaccinated as a priority.

NHS Scotland designed and built workflows on the ServiceNow Now Platform to manage PPE tracking, contact tracing and care home testing. The new vaccination management system was built in just six weeks, a fortnight ahead of schedule. 

While the external perception of the task facing NHS Scotland might have led some to think that administering a vaccine programme would be second nature, it is important to remember just how different this process was. NHS Scotland’s healthcare professionals know how to operate vaccine rollouts, but they have never had to deliver multi-dose vaccinations while managing limited supplies across a rolling base of prioritised age-dependent and vulnerability-based scheduling.  


Vaccination is a workflow

Although vaccination is intimidating for some, it is comforting and painless for most people. But however we regard the process personally, it is essentially a procedure. This fact enables us to determine that vaccine administration and delivery is a workflow. Logically then, it can be a digital workflow.

Because vaccination administration, management and delivery is a process with clearly defined steps, it is a perfect candidate for encoding into a digital workflow. In the same way a business might use customer service management or employee service delivery, vaccination workflows have enabled NHS Scotland to build a consistent and dynamic service.

With many of the UK’s healthcare providers relying on rudimentary database services, Excel spreadsheets and even hard copy records to track individuals’ vaccination status, the ServiceNow use case at NHS Scotland represents a watershed point of IT evolution. The work at NHS Scotland showcases how other healthcare providers can now move on from outdated practices, such as depending solely on email for patient communications.


An out-of-the-box antidote

The six week build included team members from National Digital and Information Security at NHS National Services Scotland and its 400 staff under the watchful eye of director Deryck Mitchelson. Alongside Mitchelson’s engineers and a cadre of ServiceNow experts, software and data consultants from Capgemini, Atos and KPMG also formed the total working group.

Insisting upon a system that would be delivered with minimal customisation, Mitchelson reflects the all-in efforts exhibited by so many individuals throughout the pandemic. He has stated that he realised the team just didn’t have time to start from scratch. 

“We needed to create a solution that was as out-of-the-box as possible. Thanks to our previous experiences, we knew ServiceNow was capable of offering something that was ready-to-go and easy to tweak, fast,” said Mitchelson. 

The NHS Scotland vaccine management system has enabled the scheduling and recording of vaccinations for all Scottish citizens eligible for vaccination. It does this by allowing Scotland’s general population to book their own appointments through a citizen portal.

Using ServiceNow’s platform and tools, NHS Scotland was able to integrate national data with local GP records and so enable citizens to request individual time slots as the system also created local standby lists. The deployment itself provides a national picture of progress, with the means to explore local data sets.

“Our clinical database, made up of information we receive directly from different Scottish health boards, feeds ServiceNow with data drawn from all the individual patient cohorts we’ve created based on various risk factors. It then creates a schedule based on the clinics, locations and staff we have available,” said Mitchelson.

The team then validates those schedules with health boards, pushes extracts to printing companies and then send notifications to the relevant patient cohorts with appointment times, instructions and other information.


A rolling, dynamic and systematic approach

Dynamic at its heart, the flexibility of the Now Platform has allowed NHS Scotland to develop and deploy new functionality as the vaccination rollout has progressed. Subsequent workflows planned include a dedicated portal for unpaid carers to request a vaccine and the integration of social media feeds to communicate with 18 to 25 year olds.

Dynamic at its heart, the flexibility of the Now Platform has allowed NHS Scotland to develop and deploy new functionality as the vaccination rollout has progressed

ServiceNow Vaccine Administration Management delivers a modern, self-service experience across desktop and mobile devices. It connects patient engagement with back-end inventory systems so organisations can schedule appointments and send reminders to notify patients when more Covid-19 vaccines are available. It also communicates to citizens when a new segment of the population is being prioritised for the vaccination.

The partnership between ServiceNow and NHS Scotland is now helping to deliver a range of different services to help fight the pandemic such as contact tracing. Looking further afield, the ServiceNow Now Platform is also helping to manage care home testing and lateral flow testing in schools.

Mitchelson and NHS Scotland’s progressive work with ServiceNow and its consultancy implementation partners mirrors the outstanding work carried out by the scientists and immunologists who worked to develop the Covid-19 vaccines. Moving timescales from years to months and in some cases weeks, the work here is characteristic of the global response to look after and care for the health and wellbeing of so many people around the world.