A new pilot project at the University of Alberta aims to eliminate the pesky paperwork from provincial flu clinics, thanks to a $100,000 grant from the provincial government.
Over 500 students and staff at the university have already been vaccinated at the mass immunization clinic inside the Students Union Building with each person skipping the costly triplicate paperwork and instead, filling out their health information on one of 18 tablet computers.
The information goes to PHIX, the Public Health Immunization Exchange, a secure web-based immunization information system developed by Alberta-based firm Okaki Health Intelligence using funds from Alberta Health.
In a news conference Tuesday, U of A Deputy Provost Dr. Olive Yonge called the application a “tremendous leap forward.”
“There are real and significant benefits to both patients and the public health care system,” she said. “We’ve eliminated the old paper vaccination forms and in the process, will provide a smoother clinical experience.”
Patients leave the clinic with both paper and electronic copies of their immunization record. The university says the project could be rolled out to other post-secondary institutions and even advanced to allow students to pre-register for their flu shot from their own smartphone or tablet.
Yonge said recent studies have shown that 21 per cent of U of A students suffer from the flu or flu-like symptoms each year, often resulting in missed lessons and lower grades.
“Getting sick during midterms or finals is actually my biggest nightmare,” said Abdullah Abudel, a second-year electrical engineering student who was in line to get his shot.
“I got sick last year during finals and it was not a very pleasant experience. I didn’t get vaccinated and I kind of regretted that so that’s why I’m here.”
The government has seen a 27 per cent jump in the number of flu shots administered so far this year and Health Minister Stephen Mandel said the pilot will help determine whether or not paperless flu clinics immunize people more efficiently.
If 45 per cent of Albertans were immunized, the government would save $26 million annually, he said.
“It’s quite remarkable, it’s not only for your health point of view but help us save some money and get your flu shot.”
Alberta Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Talbot said the pilot could have impacts in health care beyond the flu season.
“We need to be prepared should there be a real pandemic and what this product does is allows us to rapidly capture the information, put large numbers of people through and do so really rapidly,” he said.
The university says the campus clinic immunizes roughly 5,000 people each year, making it the largest mass immunization clinic in the province. Over 200 health sciences students administer the vaccinations over four days from Novmber 4 to 7.