Why vax hunters are pulling their hair out…

And, how at least one retail pharmacy has “broken the code” for doing it right.
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Yesterday, we showcased a vaccine scheduling invitation that I received from the Maryland Department of Health.

See How would you respond to this vaccination invitation?

We called it well-intended, but another  “not-so-great moment in direct marketing” because…

It was an anonymous email (sender was “your vaccination provider”) with a cryptic “no reply” email address. The vaccination site address googles to a gambling casino … and the recipient is instructed to click a link.

Our conclusion:

If that doesn’t set off safe computing alarm bells in your head, you should immediately close your browser and never open it again.

All of the critical warning signs for a scam email are there!

That’s too bad, because it is a legit “invitation” via Maryland’s brand new state-central vaccine scheduling system.

Unfortunately, this auto-generated email is representative of well intentioned but shoddy work that has plagued the vaccine roll-out … causing much consumer confusion.

OK, that was yesterday.

Last night, since I hadn’t scheduled an appointment, “the system” auto-generated a follow-up email reminder.

Satisfied from yesterday’s experience, that the email was probably legit, I clicked through as directed.

Here’s what I got:

image

The good news: it was well-identified as coming from the Maryland Department of Health’s new PrepMod system.

The bad news: After teasing me with the “schedule now” email, I got a message informing me that “Clinic does not have any appointment slots available”.

The obvious question: Why doesn’t the system check for availability before hitting the send button on the “get off your duff” email.

That’s simple system design logic.

Note: I checked the link as soon as the email arrived, so it wasn’t likely a matter of the appointments filling between the time of the email and my check-in.

My intention isn’t to pile on the state’s well intentioned effort to centralize vaccine scheduling.

It’s just a handy example of how and why people who are frantically trying to get vaccinated are frustrated.

My advice: Inject a modicum of quality control before going “live” with a high visibility system.

Stop treating an anxious public as beta test subjects.

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P.S. This example isn’t the worst case that I’ve encountered.

One retail pharmacy’s scheduling system has previously kept me waiting for up to an hour “in queue” …  watching an animated  stickman walk slowly across the screen …  before giving me the “no vaccine available within 30 miles of your zip code” message.

The best: CVS (where I ended up getting vaccinated).

The first CVS screen just instructed: “Click on your state” … the second screen displayed all Maryland store locations, indicating “available” or “fully booked” … third screen asked for a zip code … enter the zip for a store that had availability and BINGO … I was in the scheduling sequence with a slot held for 10 minutes while I entered insurance and consent information.

From that point, the process was a cake walk … immediate confirmation by text & email … reminder message a couple of days before the appointment (which reassured me that CVS still had me in their system)… a text message on the morning of the appointment with a link to “check in online when you get to the store” … which then pulled up all my info for the admission checker and vaccinator – saving mucho in-store processing time.

My question: Why didn’t Maryland just jack CVS’s system?

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