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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. Their aim is to facilitate more efficient distribution and delivery of 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 vaccines could better reach family physicians and onwards to the general public, and was chosen from amongst the ideas offered by the workgroup. A digital vaccine delivery solution was created within three weeks that, as of today, is being used by the planners of the Health Insurance Fund and physicians. The application helps to save thousands of valuable work time hours every month through the planning and ordering of 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 healthcare system will be reduced, and in turn, lives will be saved.

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 Estonian Association of Family Physicians chairman of the board, Le Vallikivi, said that as there are still not enough vaccines arriving in the country to be distributed to everyone that requires them, the distribution of vaccine quantities has 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,” added Vallikivi.

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 added.

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 the venture capitalist, Indrek Kasela. Sixfold offers visibility services in the field of logistics throughout Europe. Sixfold became known throughout Europe a year ago with the free map application that displayed the congestion at state borders caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Health Insurance Fund’s chairman of the board, Rain Laane, stated that volunteers are invaluable in these times of 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,” noted Laane.

The pace of vaccinations and the quantities of supply have significantly increased. According to Minister of Health and Labour, Tanel Kiik. “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,” claimed Minister Kiik. “We must constantly make the combat against COVID-19 more efficient. The rapid and effective organisation of the vaccination program of utmost importance here. I give recognition to the voluntary entrepreneurs and all parties, for their vital contribution in simplifying the work of the healthcare system and family physicians.”

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 Health Insurance Fund, Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, Health Board, Centre for Health and Well Being Information Systems (TEHIK), as well as the Information System Authority (RIA).

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