The advent of multiple safe and effective vaccines to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection represents a major step in resolving the COVID-19 global pandemic. Vaccination of individuals with rheumatologic diseases on immunomodulators represents an additional challenge because data suggest that certain immunomodulators may impact vaccine efficacy.
At a large, predominantly rural Midwestern Veterans Affairs rheumatology clinic, an interprofessional group of investigators conducted a quality improvement project to develop a COVID-19 vaccine readiness kit, consisting of patient education materials and a readiness questionnaire to help guide veteran decision-making. Using a Lean Six Sigma approach and the DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) framework, the investigators identified customer values, needs, and barriers to participation. Return rates and responses from the questionnaire were tracked over 28 days.
One hundred seventy-nine veterans were identified and mailed kits; 129 (73%) returned the questionnaire within 28 days. Ninety-seven percent of those opted to hold immunomodulators after at least 1 administration of the vaccine; 3.1% were not interested in vaccination. Veterans voiced satisfaction at the simplicity of the process, comprehensibility of materials, and the clarity of communication.
The Lean Six Sigma approach, systematically focusing on identifying the values, needs, and barriers of veterans on immunomodulators, was critical to high participation rates from veterans. This approach is cost-effective for resource-poor settings, audiences without access or familiarity to digital content, and rural settings separated by large geographic distances.