December 23. The day is symbolic, the gesture is just as much. On Christmas Eve, a 90-year-old Lucerne will remain in the history books as the first Swiss woman to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Only a day earlier, on December 22, the Confederation published the tender for the two IT tools allowing vaccine data management, namely OneDoc to manage patient registration and the transmission of results and myCOVIDvac, electronic vaccination record module used to issue certificates. Amount of the invoice: 1.4 million francs.
A difficult start
How can we explain that Switzerland took so long to launch an interface that guarantees homogeneous collection of vaccine data throughout the country when the whole world has been watching for the arrival of vaccines for months? Has the Federal Office of Public Health (OFSP) lacked anticipation? No, retorts its communication service, which specifies that the development of this tool had been underway since September. “It was only once the recommendations of the Federal Commission for Vaccinations and the final vaccination strategy were known that we were able to determine the functionalities necessary for the award of the contract”, we justify in writing .
A laborious pilot phase followed in early January by the Canton of Geneva to improve the functionality of this interface. In the meantime, Lucerne was forced to collect its vaccine data for several weeks in an Excel file, before finally being able to dump them into this data collection system.
Faced with these delays, other cantons – Bern, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Jura and Bâle-Ville – preferred to equip themselves with their own IT tool in order to be able to monitor the vaccination from the end of December.
IT experts from the cantons of Neuchâtel and Jura have thus joined forces to adapt and update an IT tool developed during the previous pandemic, that of influenza A (H1N1) which occurred in 2009. “We usually prefer to pool our forces. and take advantage of existing tools. However in this specific case, our IT experts feared that we could not start on time, which is why we madeGo it alone», Argues the Jura Minister of Health and the Economy, Jacques Gerber.
In Basel-City, the authorities have chosen to rely on the expertise of a private partner. Managing all of the vaccination, Meconex has favored its own software, which is already operational. “This is not a decision that opposes the solution recommended by the FOPH,” specifies Anne Tschudin, communication manager of the Basel-City Department of Health. This choice simply made it easier to set up the cantonal vaccination center. ” The result is convincing. The half-canton is at the top of the list of cantons with the most advanced vaccination campaigns.
As for the interoperability of data with the tool recommended at federal level, Basel-City confirms that this is guaranteed thanks to an interface serving as a bridge between the cantons and the Confederation. “We are not ruling out switching to the OneDoc system. We will reconsider this option later, ”tempers the Baloise.
This is not the first time that the pandemic has revealed the authorities’ difficulties in setting up a centralized and uniform data collection system. Remember. Last spring, caught off guard, the cantons had to tinker around for several months with a lot of Excel tables to record the cases tested positive for Covid-19 and ensure the tracing of contamination, which led to general confusion. At the end of semi-confinement, while some cantonal departments were already beginning to professionalize their entourage surveys, the Confederation ended up acquiring software in June, which was finally joined by 16 cantons, only two of which in French-speaking Switzerland.
A few months later, therefore rebelote. Faced with the heterogeneity of these interfaces, it took almost a month after the launch of the first vaccination campaign to obtain the FOPH first vaccine data on a federal level. Furthermore, the figures are only updated twice a week unlike, for example, the canton of Vaud, which has developed its own system via the Unisanté network and which updates its data in real time.
For Dr. Marie-Annick Le Pogam, co-responsible with her colleague Valérie Pittet of the “Health Data Sciences” research group at the University Center for General Medicine and Public Health (Unisanté) in Lausanne, the fragmentation of health information systems complicates the governance, especially in the event of a pandemic, where the levels of reflection, organization and decision-making should be at the national or even international level.
“Despite the existence of certain centralized online platforms, a coherent health information system, interoperable at national level, is unfortunately lacking in Switzerland. While the cantonal initiatives can be welcomed, it is urgent to acquire the means of a national information system because other pandemics or health crises could arise in connection with climate change ”, concludes the head of clinic, while welcoming the fact that the crisis has nonetheless provided a tremendous boost to boost thinking around the digitization of the health sector.