How Welltok is Combatting COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy

By Welltok Marketing

Denver Business Journal recently sat down with Welltok's Chief Strategy Officer, April Gill, to learn how Welltok is combating COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and what you can do about it, too. Read the full article below.

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A Denver-based digital health company is using its machine learning and communication systems to motivate people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Welltok is used by clients such as health plans and health systems to better serve their patients through data analytics. It also works with large employers to support their employees' wellbeing as well as other organizations to drive consumer actions.

Welltok collects data from multiple sources — including population data, demographics, social determinants of health and individual health history — and then uses artificial intelligence to analyze that data and make specific insights into an individual's wellbeing.

“The data we’re curating is a combination of public and private data,” said April Gill, chief strategy officer for Welltok. “Some of it is proprietary and some is available to the public. We utilize 40 different data sources to understand a 360-degree view of a patient.”

While other organizations might purchase data from a single data source, she said Welltok’s data is more comprehensive, which can ultimately lead to better patient outcomes.

On top of its machine learning, Welltok is also able to communicate with individuals through multiple channels.

The company is using its combination of individual and demographic data with its ability to communicate in order to identify people who might be hesitant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Then, the company uses a specific communication strategy to help get them vaccinated.

Welltok, which has 350 employees across the company, has 17 years of experience in multichannel communications. At the end of last year, the firm raised $5 million in equity funding.

Prior to COVID-19, it was already using its communications system to remind patients of things like flu shots.

“It really wasn’t a stretch for us to very quickly realize this is something we need to be a part of. We have a responsibility to the public to communicate about these things,” she said.

One difference from the flu shot is that most coronavirus vaccines so far require two doses. Gill said there aren’t many vaccines that require multiple doses beyond childhood, so a part of the communication strategy is based on reminding people to go back for their second shot.

Gill also added that it’s important to remember that some people might have justifiable fears and concerns — some based on history and the experiences of certain populations.

The company’s messaging works to overcome some of that hesitancy through education. The first message a patient gets seeks to highlight some of the positive aspects of the vaccine.

“We focus on the personal 'why' for choosing to get the vaccine. Whether that’s hugging your grandma, protecting children, hanging out with your friend who is high risk. Whatever that 'because' is,” Gill said.

The next message is a call-to-action follow-up asking if the patient is planning to get the vaccine and if so, when. It will also ask if they need a reminder.

Finally, Welltok asks for confirmation that the person did indeed get a vaccine.

Depending on the individual, the company might spend more time on education or work to interact with them in a different way.

The AI uses demographics and medical history to identify who might be hesitant to receive vaccines. The messaging — including high-touch, personal conversations — can help get people through that. Gill said that based a survey Welltok has conducted, the patient’s provider is seen as the most trusted by patients. The company might then shift communication to focus on connecting with their provider, who can walk them through their fears.

Gill said that 2021 will be spent working on this COVID-19 communication — and said it’s her personal opinion that reminding people about the COVID vaccine could become routine over the next several years.

“My prediction is [COVID-19] is likely to move down a continuum similar to the flu,” she said. “My expectation is over the next year, we’ll continue to promote the importance of the vaccine and getting a second dose in a timely fashion. Over the next several years, I think we’ll continue on some vax schedule as the virus continues to evolve, in a similar way we do with the flu.”

Original article appeared in Denver Business Journal - March 2021. 

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