Estonia adopts a vaccine distribution app built by volunteers

Family physicians and the Estonian Health Insurance Fund have started using an application developed by Estonian logistics startup Sixfold along with a team of volunteers whose aim is to facilitate a more efficient distribution and delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines.

At the beginning of March, a joint workgroup was assembled by the Estonian state and various leading tech entrepreneurs, to find ways in which the private sector could contribute to resolving the coronavirus crisis.

The challenge set focused on how the vaccines could better reach family physicians and onwards to the general public, and was chosen from among the ideas offered by the workgroup. A digital vaccine delivery solution was created within three weeks that, as of the time of writing this article, is being used by the planners of the Health Insurance Fund and physicians. The application helps save thousands of valuable work time hours every month through the planning and ordering of the vaccines.

The application helps save thousands of valuable work time hours every month through the planning and ordering of the vaccines.

It’s vitally important that the application be used to find the best possible sequence of vaccination, taking into consideration the limited availability of vaccines, risk group priority and people’s locations. As a result, the pressure on the health-care system will be reduced, and in turn, lives will be saved.

Automatic vaccine distribution based on actual data

Through source data, based on the vaccine deliveries arriving in the country and the COVID-19 risk groups, the solution responds by proposing automatic vaccine distribution to more than 700 family physicians throughout Estonia, taking into consideration the size of the risk groups in their list of patients. The family physicians can then order the required quantities and confirm their orders for the Health Board to begin fulfilment. The application also provides family physicians with a clear overview of the preliminary information on pending deliveries.

The chairman of the Estonian Association of Family Physicians, Le Vallikivi, said that as there still were not enough vaccines arriving in the country to be distributed to everyone that requires them, the distribution of vaccine quantities had become increasingly difficult.

“From next week, we can begin to consider the size of risk groups each family physician has, as a result of which, the distribution of vaccines will become increasingly more complicated. The new solution created by these volunteers will greatly assist in reducing this complexity,” Vallikivi said.

According to the leader of the workgroup, Magnus Hiie, the pandemic requires fast and determined action, instead of the usual drawn-out planning processes. “We are coming from the startup world where such an approach is a daily occurrence, and we are happy that we can now use our experience for the benefit of the Estonian people,” Hiie noted.

Sixfold’s team.

The application for vaccine deliveries was developed and delivered to the state free of charge by the founders of Sixfold and the company’s past and existing employees Magnus Hiie, Priit Haamer, Marko Klopets, Tõnu Runnel and venture capitalist Indrek Kasela. Sixfold offers visibility services in the field of logistics throughout Europe. A year ago, Sixfold also created a free map application that displayed the congestion caused by the coronavirus pandemic at state borders across Europe.

Volunteers are invaluable at the time of a crisis

The Health Insurance Fund’s chairman of the board, Rain Laane, said that volunteers were invaluable in these times of a crisis. “In these difficult times, it’s a joy to see that citizens are coming to the assistance of those dealing with solving the crisis. All help received is of great assistance,” Laane asserted.

The pace of vaccinations and the quantities of supply have increased in Estonia. According to the Estonian social affairs ministry, “there are more than 200,000 people in Estonia that are protected against COVID-19 with at least one dose. The majority of those vaccinated have received an injection within the last four weeks, whereas it took 10 weeks to vaccinate the first hundred thousand people. The pace has therefore increased greatly.”

The volunteers will continue working on, modifying and adding to the application over the coming weeks.

The participants in the workgroup on behalf of the state were the Estonian Health Insurance Fund, the social ministry, the economy ministry, the Estonian Health Board, the Centre for Health and Well Being Information Systems as well as the Information System Authority.

Cover: The participants of the workgroup at Sixfold’s office. Images by Sixfold.

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