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Dr. B Review: Using Technology to Help Americans During a Pandemic
What originally started in December 2020 has continued to plague the globe nearly two years later. The coronavirus infected millions of individuals during the first wave, with hundreds of thousands of fatalities. Waiting Americans were hit with a supply shortage during the initial vaccine rollout, playing into fear and uncertainty. Clinics scrambled to accommodate the influx of vaccine appointments, while individuals overwhelmed the online portals promising vaccines crashed under the increase in traffic.
When a Startup Steps Up with a Plan
Although many Americans expect large enterprises and corporations to lend a hand during emergencies, not many consider the value a startup offers, especially during a global pandemic. Thankfully, a few tried to defeat the odd, showing that the size of a company doesn’t dictate the ability to connect with a community. Dr. B originated in January 2021, when Massoumi found pharmacies and clinics were discarding large quantities of the covid vaccines due to availability and booking errors. Despite the grave supply shortage, it seemed pharmacies and clinics couldn’t find bodies to fill the cancelations and no-show appointments. With millions of individuals struggling to find a vaccine, throwing away expired vaccines seemed wasteful.
Building Connections Traditional Health Care Missed
The sole purpose of Dr. B was working to connect clinics and health care facilities with extra vaccines to interested parties still waiting for their shot. The system operates as a standby network, where individuals could register online to receive notifications should a local facility have immediate availability. These facilities could upload their expected surplus directly to the network, with the number of doses and the expiry timeframe.
From there, Dr. B accesses the registry to pull qualified candidates from the standby list. The highest priority individuals would determine the order of contact, particularly the immunocompromised or elderly. An individual that could reach the clinic within the specified time could reserve the appointment. If an individual declined, Dr. B reached out to additional people to take the spot.
An Unprecedented Growth
Two clinics registered with Dr. B’s network at the time of launch. They registered for the platform in hopes of minimizing waste overall. The initial clinic was Brittany Marsh of Little Rock, Arkansas. The drug store owner struggled to use the vaccine supply before it expired, feeling pressured to locate individuals needing immunization. When 22-inches of snow hit the town in February, the pharmacist struggled to find available candidates.
With time, the clinic list expanded to include over 750 different facilities. These locations included pharmacies, vaccine clinics, grocery stores, and medical centers—all of which joined the fight to reduce vaccine waste. Dr. B worked to fill vacancies and cancelations behind the scenes without the clinic spending additional time and effort to fill the positions. As news of the standby list went public, interest quickly increased. As of late 2021, nearly 2.5 million people registered on the website.
How the Startup Collected Information
Nearly 2.5 million people volunteered personal information to join the standby list in hopes of receiving a covid vaccine. The extensive reach of the website highlights the importance of safeguarding personal data, particularly with medical content. Users offered their name, employment, address, ongoing medical issues, and current geographical area at registration. Users’ information became a reference for the eligibility algorithm, arranging candidates by government-mandated eligibility and ongoing risk factors.
Protecting Personal Information Online
Understanding the Deliberately Quiet Launch
One devastating detail Massoumi noticed was the lack of equality among communities for vaccine distribution. He intentionally avoided major press and news outlets in hopes of spreading awareness among vulnerable communities first. To spread the word, Dr. B connected with the Community Action Network, NAACP, iHeartRadio’s Spanish-speaking channels, and the Indian Health Service. This jumpstart of information offered the communities a chance to receive an immunization.
How did the Website Counter Government Restrictions?
As the vaccine distribution began in early 2021, every state developed and implemented its own criteria for the vaccine rollout. Many considerations included pre-existing medical conditions, age, and occupation. Those qualifying for a vaccine struggled to access them, especially with overbooking and backlogs. Despite this, many clinics suffered from surplus when individuals failed to show up or canceled appointments without notice.
Individuals spent countless hours trying to access vaccines, the majority without success. Those wanting a vaccine spent hours waiting at clinics hoping to receive an extra dose, while others fought the virtual crowds for appointment times. Dr. B allowed users to virtually wait for an opening without spending time scouring multiple clinics. The platform removed accessibility issues (including those struggling to spend all day waiting in a facility), prioritizing at-risk members needing immunization.
The Future for the Startup Business
As COVID-19 vaccines become readily available, Dr. B’s initiative will branch out within the medical industry. Facing a global pandemic highlighted the gross disparities existing in the healthcare community—particularly for communities of color. The website hopes to continue meeting these discrepancies head-on, increasing efficiency and equity for all Americans. Dr. B expects to apply all frameworks from the immunization standby list to other expanded missions in the future.
A Community Effort from Small Startup to Large Enterprise
The global pandemic highlights the importance of community effort and accessibility to protect the population. If resources are minimal, streamlining the process can minimize waste. The company size does not correlate with its impact on an industry, whether healthcare or another viable sector. Dr. B’s system showcased a standby system that functionally connected providers with those needing immunization in a way that can apply to other branches of healthcare.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes