The patient journey

It is important to understand how the Vaccine Clinic Finder (VCF) looks and operates from the patient perspective. General Practitioners (GPs) and practice staff may be asked questions by patients on the best way to search and book a COVID-19 vaccination. Understanding the patient journey will allow practice staff to provide guidance, as they will likely be responding to queries from patients regarding their experience of the VCF and may call asking for advice.

On the home page, patients can:

  • directly click ‘Find a clinic and book’
  • be connected to a translator
  • find disability vaccination clinics get more information about the VCF and clinic locations.

The homepage and COVID-19 vaccine information is also available in several other languages.

Further information on disability vaccination clinics and a link to book for someone else is also available.

Step 1: Once patients select ‘Find a clinic and book’ they enter their location, which vaccine they are looking for and can select if they do not have a Medicare card.

At the top of this search page, patients can also select their preferred language.

There are also ‘More information’ links for vaccination information and further details on Medicare and Medicare eligibility.

Patients are only offered options to view and make a booking at practices and other sites that require a Medicare number unless they select ‘I don’t have a Medicare number’.

Step 2: After all questions have been answered, patients ‘Search for Clinics’ to begin the search.

 

  • Search results that appear will show patients all providers listed on the VCF and the details will vary depending on if the practice has integrated their online booking system, provided a link to their online booking system or is listed as phone only.
  • A map appears to assist patients find a location that is nearby.

Step 3: Patients can click ‘More Info’ to make a booking.

 

Key challenges that create a barrier for patients booking their COVID-19 Vaccination via the VCF include:

  • No online booking options are offered

The inconsistency across information offered by vaccine providers makes it challenging for patients to see the next available appointments when booking for a vaccine. This creates a less seamless process for patients, who need to click, call and compare information across different practices and providers.

  • All vaccination brands offered by the practice are not available for online bookings

When patients cannot easily book for their preferred vaccine, they may opt for a clinic that is less convenient to travel to or opt to visit a practice other than their usual choice that offer online bookings on the VCF.

  • Incorrect or out of date practice information

Patients may be directed to call practices who are no longer delivering particular vaccines or have changed their clinic hours. For example, if your practice extends it’s vaccine appointment hours but does not update this on the VCF, patients are likely to miss this opportunity.

Role of practice staff to support the patient journey

What can GPs and their practice team do to help streamline the journey for their patients?

  • Provide education for practice staff about the Vaccine Clinic Finder (VCF) (see Patient Journey section).

Practice administration staff will likely be responding to queries from patients regarding their experience of the VCF and may call asking for advice. If you have nominated a VCF and VCF Connect ‘super user’ in your practice, they can assist with delivering education sessions as per this resource.

  • Keep your details up to date (see VCFC section).

Check VCF regularly including details such as vaccination brands and appointment times are displaying accurately. This way, it is clear what is visible to patients on the public facing VCF site (Note; the VCF Connect does not currently offer a ‘preview’ function).

  • Offer an online booking service.

Consider transitioning to using online appointment booking services, making a seamless process for patients to book in for their COVID-19 vaccine and COVID-19 booster.

  • Ensure your practice has contingency plans.

If your practice needs to close suddenly, or your online systems are down, having contingency plans and policies in place to manage current bookings, while updating the VCF in real time can assist patients to find to next available vaccine appointment. You may be able to add a process to your practices Business Continuity Plan to cover this scenario.

Online booking systems integration

The Vaccine Clinic Finder (VCF) integrates with a number of online appointment booking systems (including but not limited to HotDoc and HealthEngine) to allow patients to seamlessly book an appointment. Once the patient finds a practice and clicks the ‘Make a booking’ link, they are taken to the practice’s online appointment booking system to complete their booking.

Patients can see at a glance when the next available appointment will be.

Patients click ‘More info’ which provides additional practice details and links directly to the online appointment booking system of the practice.

If no online appointment is offered due to either the practice not having an online booking system or the system in use not compatible with the VCF, then a phone number is supplied.

Other Toolkits

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Custodians of the land and sea in which we live and work, we recognise their continuing connection to land, sea and culture and pay our respects to Elders past, present and future.