A Main Line Health outreach program that significantly reduced vaccination-rate disparities between employees of color and white employees—and benefited the surrounding community—has earned statewide recognition for how the health system responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The work of Main Line Health's Vaccine Confidence Committee earned a COVID-19 Response Innovation Award from the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), ranking among the top 10 programs in the state.
"This recognition is truly meaningful to our health system because we are committed to addressing healthcare disparities with the same energy and focus as used in pursuing patient safety and quality care," said Jack Lynch, FACHE, president and CEO, Main Line Health. "The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the persistence of disparities nationwide. Much remains to do, but this recognition from HAP shows we are headed in the right direction toward the ultimate goal of delivering the same level of excellent patient care regardless of race and ethnicity."
The Vaccine Confidence Committee was formed in December 2020 in response to the impact of the pandemic among Black and Hispanic/Latino communities, which have experienced a greater rate of serious illness and death throughout the pandemic compared to white communities. National surveys have shown heightened concerns from communities of color regarding the vaccine's newness and possible side effects.
Main Line Health focused on vaccinating its own employees to decrease this impact, seeking to reduce gaps in access and increase vaccine confidence, with several of its programs expanding to serve the community in general. The Main Line Health System has five award-winning acute care hospitals and a premier substance use treatment center serving Philadelphia and its western suburbs.
As a result of the racially diverse, multidisciplinary committee's work, by the end of July 2021, the health system saw a 25.8% reduction in the gap between employees of color and white employees for scheduling the first dose of the vaccine. It also saw a 14.6% reduction in the gap between Black and Hispanic/Latino vs. white employees' activating a MyChart patient portal account, which is used to schedule vaccination appointments.
"We are extremely proud of the Vaccine Confidence Committee for their dedication, leadership and expertise in educating as many employees as possible at Main Line Health about the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine by reducing the gaps in access and increasing vaccine confidence between Black and Hispanic/Latino," said Shelly Buck, president of Riddle Hospital, who led the committee's efforts. Riddle is part of Main Line Health. "Winning this award is a true testament to the vaccine work we were able to provide to our employees and community members."
The committee focused on three tactics to reduce disparities.
- The Vaccine Ambassador program included education sessions for employees and the community, department-level MyChart enrollment sessions, and partnerships with community leaders and organizations. Individualized sessions both in-person and virtual proved highly effective.
- The Vaccine Transportation Program offered free, shared rides to Main Line Health Vaccine Clinics to employees, later expanding to patients and community members.
- A COVID-19 Health Equity webpage was posted for employees and the community to deliver accurate, up-to-date information.
Main Line Health and Jefferson Health also partnered to earn HAP recognition for their Regional Congregate Care Assistance Team (RCAT) program, which provides clinical, operational, and administrative support to long-term care and congregate care facilities to protect residents from COVID-19. As of the end of 2021, the Main Line Health/Jefferson RCAT team conducted over 1,000 assessments and consultations, distributed 4,156,000 PPE items, and conducted 66 rapid responses to over 7,000 facility employees in southeastern Pennsylvania.
HAP received nearly 80 entries for the awards. The applications were evaluated by a group of independent judges from Pennsylvania and across the nation who were not given the health systems' identities.
The winning projects will be recognized during HAP's annual Leadership Summit on May 9–10 in Harrisburg.