This story also ran on the San Diego Union Tribune. It can be republished for free.
California launched a statewide covid vaccination website this week to streamline the appointment process after months of criticism. However, the website has its own set of problems that keep many from signing up for recordings.
The vaccine enrollment website, My Turn, is the state’s answer to a variety of vaccination appointment systems that have required residents to enroll through the websites of various hospitals, pharmacies, clinics, and many of California’s 58 counties.
The website, created by tech giant Salesforce, will be part of a $ 15 million contract between insurer Blue Shield of California and the state to acquire its covid vaccine distribution system. My Turn is considered a clearing house that allows most California residents to register for covid vaccinations and then receive a notification when they are eligible to sign up for a vaccine appointment. The app then instructs users how to log in to available appointments at specific locations.
However, the My Turn database does not contain information about vaccinations, which are available at most pharmacies or at Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health hospitals. Individuals wishing to be vaccinated at these locations must contact the companies by phone or through their websites.
Like most aspects of the state, local and federal government response to Covid, the My Turn rollout has been problematic. Technology experts say the kinks are not surprising given the plethora of information exchange systems used by the state healthcare system and the tendency of government officials to overlook the need for consumer convenience in building IT systems.
California Department of Health spokesman Darrel Ng said My Turn “is constantly being updated to add features that make it easier and more convenient for Californians to schedule vaccine appointments. If there are technological snafus, they are quickly corrected. “Salesforce didn’t respond to a request for comment.
To date, more than 650,000 vaccines have been given through the My Turn system, and 600,000 more are planned, Ng said. But widespread errors on the website have sparked a chain of desperate and sarcastic social media reactions.
“Here in the Bay Area, with Silicon Valley and all of its wealth and technological brilliance, we vaccinate our people against a pandemic every year,” said William Boos tweetedA screenshot of an error message is displayed stating that an “Authentication Token” was missing.
Several Twitter users stated that they could not register for the first recording because the system did not show a slot for a second recording as available.
“My category has vacancies on March 1st on @Walgreens, but there are no dates for the second dose. Spots appear on the MyTurn website, but an error message appears after you choose a time. ” tweeted Jennifer Lazo.
Others say the system directed them to vaccination centers with no slots available.
“There are no appointments in San Diego County. Try it yourself. State you are 65+. They say you are eligible and take you to a location in El Cajon where 0 dates are available. ” tweeted Another user.
An irregularity allowed anyone who had registered in the state to book a vaccine appointment in tiny rural Kings County. The clinics had to turn away residents who had traveled from neighboring counties, and district officials completely stopped booking appointments through My Turn until the issue was resolved.
Technological problems with vaccination websites have been a problem nationwide.
In New York, hundreds of seniors lined up on a cool morning in mid-February after being told to come for a second vaccine between 7 and 8 a.m. only to find out that the appointment offer was a computer glitch. Georgia health officials used hand counting of vaccine doses to determine how many appointments were available.
We asked four health technology experts to explain why My Turn and other systems weren’t working properly. Your answers have been edited for length and clarity:
Arien Malec, Senior Vice President Research and Development at Change Healthcare:
The My Turn website and vaccination dissemination system are products of a reactive rather than a proactive response that has plagued the medical and technology industries since covid first appeared. Everyone imitates this spontaneously. My turn in particular is a usability nightmare. The website clearly prefers already tech-savvy users and does not appear to have been properly checked. Tech companies typically invest time and money testing software before making it available to the public. My turn doesn’t seem to pass such a pattern. There are informal ways to conduct usability tests that are relatively cheap. Given all the money we spend on covid vaccination, and given the economic benefit of vaccinating more people, it’s cheap at all costs.
Hana Schank, Strategy Director for the New America Think Tank’s Public Interest Technology program:
The problems with My Turn and other federally approved vaccination centers stem from the lack of technological expertise on the part of government officials. The people who make the political decisions are not able to make the technical decisions. Your ultimate goal is less a good consumer experience than achieving a tangible result – in this case, vaccinating people. Do people sign up? Yes. Are vaccines distributed? Yes. Done. They think this is checking their boxes. A technical problem is never just a technical problem. It’s always a bureaucracy problem, or it’s a silo problem, or it’s a lack of expertise. The way the government thinks about success comes from another time. The government is really bad at providing a good user experience.
Atul Butte, Director of the Bakar Computational Health Sciences Institute at the University of California-San Francisco:
Given where California was two months ago when the vaccines were first distributed in the state, My Turn should be considered a success. While there may be glitches in the user interface, there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to align the different counties and their health records, and to keep track of the number of vaccinations for residents. The website is based on four databases: one for vaccine ordering and tracking; one for inventory at all locations; the California Immunization Registry, or CAIR; and finally the vaccination planner. Each of these databases has many components. CAIR is spread across regions and its system is old; The user-related website has not been updated since 2013.
Dr. Chris Longhurst, Chief Information Officer at UC San Diego Health:
Even if you had the perfect technology and you were all using My Turn, people will still be upset because they cannot be vaccinated. We are currently in the valley of despair because we had the weather problems in Texas, which affected not only the transport of the vaccine, but also the manufacture of some of the vaccine. And then you have the state’s transition to Blue Shield as a new third party agency, which is bumpy at best. Then you have technology transitions – My Turn and My Turn integration into electronic health records, which are also bumpy at best. And then the governor also has a number of new levels for educators and key workers. There is no supply to meet this new demand. This leads to tremendous misalignment and frustration.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces extensive journalism on health issues. Alongside Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three most important operational programs of the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a foundation that provides health information to the nation.
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