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Feature: Eva Health Technologies’ eVacc platform piloted to support Phase 3 NHS vaccine workflows

Ahead of Eva Health Technologies’ live talk at the HTN Digital Primary Care event on 4 August 2021, we decided to find out more about the company, its CEO, and eVacc, the health tech provider’s new co-admin, point-of-care vaccination platform.

Eva Health will be joining us in August to discuss the solution, which has already been adopted by GPs in England, ahead of a potential autumn and winter vaccination season that could see COVID-19 booster shots delivered alongside, or in tandem with, an expanded programme of influenza vaccines – therefore potentially increasing the pressures on both primary care and the vaccination workforce.

At of the end of June, the UK Government said that “pending further data and final advice,” millions could be offered the third COVID booster vaccine from September 2021, in two stages, with “equal emphasis on deployment of the influenza vaccine where eligible”, as outlined in the immunisation Green Book. While it has also already revealed plans to deliver more flu vaccines, amid reports the shot could be offered to around 35 million people this year.

This means that Eva Health, which was founded in 2020 following a ‘meeting of minds’ and a new partnership between the companies Microtest and PUBLIC, is set to cap off its first year with high demand and interest in its new module. But, as the NHS awaits final confirmation regarding the vaccine roll-outs, the company is urging healthcare managers to plan ahead.

Maddy Phipps-Taylor, Eva Health’s CEO, took time out to chat to HTN about eVacc and how it can assist and support healthcare professionals over the coming months…

“A medical record that’s fit for the future”

Providing us with a little bit of background on herself and the company, she said: “I’ve been at the company for just over a year now and taken it through a transition from what it was before – Microtest – a very long-standing, family-run business in Cornwall to what we are today, which is a re-start up. We’re rebranded, fully remote working and bringing new technologies into the healthcare space.”

On eVacc itself she added: “We’re a medical record that has a specific use case at the moment for COVID vaccinations. So, when you go and get your vaccination – which you should do, if you haven’t already – the act of that is recorded in the software, which is a mini medical record that we then interface with other systems in the NHS, and it links back to your GP record and the NHS app, so that you can see your COVID vaccination tick. The data that’s feeding that comes from our systems and other systems like ours.”

However, Maddy was also keen to point out that Eva is not just here for COVID: “The next wave will be flu, so we’re talking about COVID and flu. Basically, anyone who is thinking about COVID vaccinations is also thinking about flu vaccinations. Within the NHS, ‘winter is coming’, so that’s our focus at the moment – finishing the development of that, getting it assured and getting it into the NHS’ hands by 1 September.”

“Beyond that, we also have a bigger journey, to support the NHS and look at other advents of care – really looking at the patient as a holistic person and how they want to engage with whoever is delivering care to them, establishing a medical record that’s fit for the future, fit for interoperability, fit for shared care records. That’s the sort of space that we see ourselves in, we’re not just recreating the siloed data of the past. We’re also looking at extending to other vaccinations, health checks and the care pathway for long COVID,” she concluded.

On the expected demand on the company’s services across the colder months, Maddy said, “we look forward to it. That’s a good problem to have. We’ve done testing up to half a million jabs a day before…without any performance issues. When you think about the scale that we’re looking at, that’s not a concern from a technical perspective.”

Maddy, who has previously worked for the Care Quality Commission, Allocate Software and as a health, care and life sciences advisor for Downing Street, also provided a case study on the platform.

A case study: The Crumbles

The eVacc platform, which took just six months to construct from scratch, recruited 180 users for the pilot, after meeting all of NHS Digital’s ‘assurance milestones’.

Overall, 16,000 vaccinations were administered across four weeks at the pilot site, known as The Crumbles in Eastbourne, which sits within the South Downs Health and Care GP federation.

Housed in a community centre, the site saw 1,200 jabs delivered over the course of just one day and, within the first 48 hours of the trial, The Crumbles moved its entire vaccination operation over to eVacc.

Mark Cannon, the CEO at South Downs, estimated that the solution saved an average of 20 seconds per jab, and said: eVacc has made it so easy for us – easy to train, easy to use and easy to increase efficiency. It was a simple decision for us to switch to this PoC software and I have no hesitation in recommending it to other sites.”

On the potential time saving, Maddy added: “Our first site saved 20 seconds per jab – that’s a lot of seconds when you add it all together. It does add up when you’re doing things at the scale that the NHS is doing them. Now he [Mark] is trying to get everyone in Sussex on board with using it so that he can share the benefit with others. He wanted to be the first to try it because he wanted to bring innovation into the market.

“They’ve been using it for two months now and do 1,300 jabs a day from their site. They’re really positive and have had some great feedback.”

“We want to support people to deliver care in different ways”

Across the next few months, Maddy expects more interest from GPs who are trying to figure out the complexities of delivering the flu vaccines and the COVID boosters – particularly over winter if using Pfizer, for which a waiting time of 15 minutes post-jab is required.

“There’s a lot of concern about people waiting outside [in winter] – will they wait or just leave? Have we got the venues to be able to do a 15-minute wait, especially with community centres and halls being used again? There’s a lot at play. But, from our perspective, we’re here to support people in however they want to do it, whenever they want to do it – whether that’s flu only, COVID only, or flu and COVID in what’s called co-administration.

“Can you give a COVID jab in one arm and a flu jab in the other? We’re still waiting on clinical sign-off on that, from the powers that be. But the mood music is yes, so everyone is planning for how to deliver that in practice.

“That’s our focus for the next few months, along with getting the word out that there is an alternative [platform]. There are also different ways of doing it [the roll-out] – we’re very comfortable working outside our traditional boundaries, to really deliver care however they [the customer] want to deliver it. You can do it on the public internet, on iPads, in a patient’s home with data – that really frees you to be able to do it on the fly, or in a community centre or church hall. We want to support people to deliver care in different ways, not just in a consultation room or a practice.”

On a lighter note, Maddy added: “We’re here to save Christmas. Saving Christmas, or the festive period, is what the COVID and flu vaccination programmes are for, as well as saving lives, of course. That emotional burden of Christmas being ‘cancelled’ last year – I really, really hope that in a small way we can help make sure that doesn’t happen this year. That means helping the thousands of NHS staff and volunteers that are currently doing the vaccination programme and who will be facing millions more to deliver, if we can help them do that then I’ll be so proud.”

“Change is for the bold”

Asked what the main benefits of eVacc are in a nutshell, Maddy offered: “Reliability – it’s not necessarily sexy [to discuss] but…the teams on the ground have been doing a heroic job despite the challenges presented to them. We have never had unplanned downtime, we’ve put a lot of effort in to make it scaleable, reliable and quick. It’s not one of those things you should have to talk about but, unfortunately, in the NHS you still do.

“It’s about how easy it is to use, to pick it up and to make sure that you’re doing it right. There have been lots of problems with data quality because you have a lot of people using software – a lot of volunteers – but people don’t really get trained properly on how to use systems. So, actually, you need systems to be designed so that you don’t need to be trained in them, systems that are intuitive so that you know where to find things.

“The eVacc system is consistent and we put a lot of effort into the user experience. When we do demos, users say it’s so easy to pick up – that’s the response you want to have, particularly when you’re using a diverse and dispersed workforce. It makes it that bit easier, quicker and safer, which hopefully translates into being able to do more jabs. That’s really a focus when you’ve got very large cohorts – for example with flu – that’s hours of clinical time that you need, to get that programme delivered.”

On Eva’s biggest challenges with the programme, Maddy highlighted: “Being able to scale-up and roll-out innovation in the NHS is a challenge actually, even when you say it’s free – because we get paid by NHS Digital centrally – people think it’s a hassle to switch, so switching is a big deal for us. People are busy and they don’t have the head space to think about it – it’s prevention versus cure. Do it over the summer when it’s less busy, ahead of the busy period in the autumn.

“Our tagline is ‘change is for the bold’. There’s lots of change in the NHS all the time and if you are going to make a change, you do need to be bold. I’m encouraging people to be bold – for them and their staff.”

To find out more about Eva Heath’s eVacc platform, visit the website. Or, alternatively, sign up via NHS Digital’s order form.