Digital communication for NITAGs is no longer optional!
In September 2016, STIKO, the German NITAG, launched its own app, the first of its kind in the NITAG community. Anyone can download the app, which is compatible with Android or IOS, and access all STIKO’s recommendations. “This innovative digital project aims to strengthen relationships between healthcare workers and STIKO,” explain Ole Wichmann and Judith Koch from Robert Koch Institute.
Why an application?
STIKO is slightly different from other NITAGs. The committee does not advise the Ministry of Health, but its recommendations are regarded as good medical practice guidelines and help decide if a vaccine will be reimbursed by insurance companies. STIKO recommendations are almost always implemented, but several studies on barriers and enablers to vaccination in Germany showed how important it is to actively engage with physicians. Medical professionals are the key to engaging the population and the main drivers to promote vaccination. For the past few years, STIKO has been evaluating opportunities to improve communication with private physicians (where the majority of vaccinations are implemented), and the increasing number of them using tablets and smartphones in their daily work life encouraged us to develop an app.
How did you develop it?
We published a call for tender and the publisher Börm Bruckmeyer, who has experience in developing medical apps, convinced us. Three people from the immunization unit at the Robert Koch Institute got involved, and we also appealed to the IT department to help with the algorithm. Altogether, the whole process took about a year, from design to launch.
What can be found in this app?
All recommendations issued by STIKO, and published annually in the Epidemiological bulletin of the Robert Koch Institute, are fully reproduced. Instruction leaflets for all vaccines and FAQs for vaccination are also available on the app’s home screen, as well as up-to-date information on supply bottlenecks or new STIKO recommendations and opinion papers.
Why would a NITAG want to communicate its recommendations?
The stakes are high when promoting our recommendations to all healthcare workers. Well informed physicians will be better equipped to talk to their patients and so improve the acceptance of vaccination, which will in turn increase vaccination rates.
6 weeks after the launch, the app has already been downloaded by 11,000 users and has been consulted almost 400,000 times.