UAlberta flu campaign gets booster shot from provincial partnership

Pilot project uses tablet-based electronic info collection to streamline campus immunization program.


(Edmonton) The University of Alberta is partnering with Alberta Health for a pilot project that aims to improve clients’ experiences at flu clinics and streamline the management and reporting of provincial mass immunization information.

Alberta health minister Stephen Mandel joined U of A deputy provost Olive Yonge at the University Health Centre’s main flu clinic on Tuesday to announce the project, the first of its kind in Canada, which makes use of a $100,000 grant from Alberta Health and U of A clinical project staff.

“We are working towards immunizing more Albertans than ever before,” said Mandel. “We need the help of partners such as the University of Alberta Wellness Services to reach our target of 45 per cent of Albertans receiving the flu vaccination. Electronic recording will let health-care workers focus on patient care, and will help keep Albertans healthy.”

The pilot project will see the University Health Centre replace the lengthy triplicate provincial immunization form with tablet-based electronic information-gathering at its main flu clinic. Now in its 14th year, the University Health Centre’s dedicated influenza clinic is one of the largest in Alberta, providing more than 5,000 flu vaccinations to students, their families and university staff every year.

“We are always looking for new ways of connecting with our university community. Our goal each year with this clinic is to reach as many students and staff as possible, to make it as easy as possible for them to get their flu shot,” said Yonge. “So, in the simplest terms, partnering on this pilot project is a ‘win-win-win’ situation: for our students, for the public health system, and for the general public.”

This year’s U of A flu clinic, which runs from Nov. 4 to 7, will see 200 health sciences students administer vaccinations at 40 stations in the Students’ Union Building’s Dinwoodie Lounge. All student immunizers, supervisors and clinic managers complete a four-tiered training program.

Tablets used for the pilot will be equipped with custom software created by OKAKI Software, an Alberta-based health information services company. According to Salim Samanani, medical director of OKAKI Canada, the current paper-based system for registering clients and tracking immunizations in Alberta puts the onus on clients to maintain a record of their immunization and makes it difficult to assess the effectiveness of the province’s mass immunization programs.

Using OKAKI’s Public Health Information Exchange (PHIX) system to gather patient data not only saves clients and clinic staff time filling out forms, but also creates a permanent electronic record that’s shared instantly and securely with the province’s immunization registry, he said.

The current project has been designed specifically for the influenza campaign at the U of A, but could be used in the future in other higher-education immunization settings, and eventually other vaccination clinics in Alberta. Future phases of the project include plans to enable students to register for immunization services online and receive an electronic record of their immunization.