Google Cloud launches vaccine management tools as tech giants jump into distribution efforts

Google Cloud is the latest company to put its tech muscle behind efforts to vaccinate millions of Americans against the COVID-19 virus.

The company launched artificial intelligence and machine learning tools Monday to help organizations forecast and model COVID-19 cases to better inform vaccine allocation. The cloud-based tools also are designed to assist with vaccine distribution, appointment scheduling, eligibility screening and communications.

The technology, called the Intelligent Vaccine Impact solution, also analyzes consumer sentiment around the COVID-19 vaccine. Understanding how local communities feel about the risks and benefits of the vaccine is critical to being able to increase confidence in vaccination, Google Cloud executives said. The sentiment analysis tool, which was developed in partnership with behavioral intelligence data company Syntasa, will help public health agencies develop a more tailored and informed vaccination campaign.

"We’ve created a set of core technologies to help regional and local governments deliver successful COVID-19 public health strategies, ranging from vaccine information and scheduling, to distribution and analytics, to forecasting and modeling COVID-19 cases," said Mike Daniels, vice president of the global public sector at Google Cloud, in a blog post.

RELATED: Microsoft, Epic, Mayo Clinic join effort to accelerate digital COVID-19 vaccine records

The new solution helps increase vaccine availability and equitable access to those who need it and assists governments in building awareness, confidence and acceptance of vaccines, Daniels wrote.

"We designed our solution to easily integrate with existing technologies, knowing that governments will administer their vaccine distributions in unique ways," he said.

As the COVID-19 vaccine distribution effort in the U.S. gets off to a bumpy start, tech giants are seizing the business opportunity and throwing their considerable resources into the effort to overcome logistical hurdles. Microsoft is partnering with a number of organizations on vaccine management efforts for both government and healthcare customers. The tech giant worked with business partners including Accenture, Avanade, EY and Mazik Global to deploy vaccine management solutions that enable registration capabilities for patients and providers, phased scheduling for vaccinations, streamlined reporting and management dashboarding with analytics and forecasting.

IBM launched supply chain management software and a blockchain-based approach to verify and track vaccines, certify that patients have had the vaccine and keep track of which patients received which vaccine.

Salesforce rolled out a cloud-based vaccine management solution that's being used by government agencies and healthcare organizations including Northwell Health, Illinois' Lake County, University of Massachusetts Amherst and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. And Oracle set up an electronic health record database and public health applications to track vaccinations and side effects.

As part of its efforts, Google Cloud researchers developed a machine learning approach that combines AI with a foundation of epidemiology to help with COVID-19 forecasting, Daniels said in the blog post. Researchers also developed an AI-driven “what-if” model to be used for COVID-19 response and other infectious disease policy intervention decision-making.

Government leaders can use data to see how forecasts change in response to policy changes, such as mask mandates, modified reopening plans or vaccination programs. 

RELATED: Microsoft rolls out COVID-19 vaccine management platform as nationwide distribution gets underway

Google Cloud's solution also includes a vaccine information portal to help overwhelmed local governments address questions and concerns from the public, Daniels said.

"Working in partnership with SpringML, MTX, Deloitte and other partners, Google Cloud has built several vaccine information portals that help people learn about vaccine availability, determine if they qualify, sign up for vaccination, and submit their information so that when they are eligible they can be vaccinated as quickly as possible," he said in the blog post.

The solution also offers consumers online registration and prescreening, location searches and appointment setting as well as automated reminders. The solution relies on Google Cloud Healthcare API to transmit data using common formats such as HL7 or FHIR—which interoperate with existing healthcare and immunization systems, the tech giant said.

Several states including North Carolina and New York have already deployed Google Cloud's vaccine management solution. 

"Our newest effort is to develop a process and technology to streamline accessing information for North Carolinians,” said Sam Gibbs, deputy secretary for technology and operations for the state of North Carolina, in a statement. “This technology will provide a central location for residents to find information such as when it is their turn to get their vaccine or guidance to easily locate a vaccination location.”