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How AdventHealth is using AI to fight Covid vaccine hesitancy

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Though hesitancy to get the Covid-19 vaccine appears to be declining, it remains a key challenge for U.S. providers as the rollout continues. To combat the issue, one Florida-based health system is harnessing the power of its artificial intelligence technology.

AdventHealth, a 50-plus hospital system headquartered in Altamonte Springs, Florida, is no stranger to the might of AI. In 2019, the health system opened Mission Control, one of the largest AI-driven command centers for clinical operations at the time. Now, the provider is using AI technology — specifically machine learning and natural language processing — to help it understand and analyze Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy.

The share of U.S. adults who report being vaccinated for Covid-19 or intending to do so as soon as possible continues to rise, but those who say they will “definitely not” get the vaccine (13%) has remained about the same since December, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor.

To pinpoint the reasons driving vaccine hesitancy, AdventHealth leveraged its digital survey platform last October to ask patients about their likelihood of getting the Covid-19 vaccine once available, and specifically, what the health system could do to make them more comfortable getting vaccinated, said Pam Guler, AdventHealth’s chief experience officer, in an email.

They then applied machine learning and natural language processing capabilities to the verbatim responses from patients.

“Not only did this enable us to see how likely respondents were to get vaccinated, but this technology integration also automatically identified key themes in the responses and segmented consumers into adopter or persona groups to give us deeper insights,” Guler said. “This has helped to inform our efforts and resourcing aimed at addressing hesitancy.”

The health system surveyed a little over 157,000 people and found that trust was among the top concerns for their patient population, with some pointing to the perceived politicization of the vaccines and also questioning whether vaccine development was rushed, said Dr. Alric Simmonds, AdventHealth’s chief health equity officer, in an email.

Further, patients were worried about side effects, especially those with pre-existing conditions.

Using natural language processing technology, AdventHealth was able to gain more detailed insights about the demographic groups displaying hesitancy. The health system learned that women, as well as Black and Hispanic patients, showed higher degrees of hesitancy than men and white patients, respectively, Guler said.

To target these groups, the health system created a multidisciplinary task force focused on vaccine access and outreach.

“We know the trust aspect is critical and we are working on ways to engage vulnerable, diverse communities through grassroots efforts and leveraging partnerships within the community to listen to individuals’ concerns, help answer their questions and ultimately vaccinate people,” she said.

For example, in Hendersonville, North Carolina, the health system collaborated with a historically Black church in the community to administer vaccines.

As the vaccine rollout continues, the health system plans to press on with its use of AI to steer vaccine hesitancy efforts.

“The insights garnered from the machine learning and natural language processing outputs in our research help lay the groundwork, from an engagement strategy standpoint, for community outreach…I think we can continue to leverage our learnings to further enhance and implement our strategies,” Guler said.

AdventHealth was among the first providers in Florida to be tapped by the state to store and administer Covid-19 vaccines when they became available in December, Simmonds said. The system has since received more than 200,000 doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Photo: Peach_iStock, Getty Images

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