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Beaufort Memorial Drive-Through Events are Models of Efficiency

For a relatively small hospital, Beaufort Memorial Hospital’s experience with COVID-19 vaccination events is a good model for providers of any size. Russell Baxley, BMH President and Chief Executive Officer, credits staff who thought through every last detail. And when you’re talking about inoculating more than a thousand people at a drive-through event, there are a lot of details.

The Beaufort team’s first large-scale event took place from 8 am. – 5 p.m. on a Saturday in a high school football stadium parking lot, set up to administer shots to more than 1,000 people whose earlier appointments had been canceled because of lack of vaccine doses.

Since everyone had already been registered in the CDC’s Vaccine Administrative Management System (VAMS), communicating about the new vaccination opportunity was fairly simple. BMH had their emails and was able to send an invitation with information about what to bring and a specific time to arrive. Not using a third-party information system kept the process moving smoothly because there was no need to upload data to VAMS throughout the day.

A second Saturday drive-through event was held at a new medical center to accommodate about 1,500 people. In both instances, Baxley said they could have accommodated more if vaccine had been available. For the second event, staff called people who had appointments in the upcoming weeks to offer them a chance to come earlier.

With staff spread out working at registration tents, managing traffic, and registering up to 10 carloads of people at a time, maintaining good communication took some ingenuity. Here are a few tips they used to keep everybody on the same page:

  • If people didn’t remember to bring copies of insurance cards, they were asked to turn on their flashers, which signaled a runner to bring an iPad to take a photo to be downloaded at the end of the day.
  • Once consent forms were signed, paperwork was placed on the front windshield, which indicated they were through with registration. That alerted traffic managers that a car was ready to move into a vaccine line, even if there was still a car in front of them. “Some people were faster than others, so we were able to let cars roll through instead of getting backed up,” Baxley said
  • Pharmacists who were preparing doses put them into baskets with the appropriate paperwork and vaccine cards, which runners would take to nurses, giving them everything they needed in one basket.

A few other best practices that the developed over time:

  • Emphasize that people should arrive at their scheduled time. Assured them that you won’t run out of vaccine. Early arrivals can cause traffic to back up onto busy highways.
  • Coordinate with local law enforcement to help direct traffic and (gently) turn away people without invitations. Put those names on a call-back list.
  • Assign people to disinfect clipboards, pens, baskets, etc., to avoid cross-contamination, and have a supply of masks for anyone who forgets one.
  • Have a separate parking area where people can be held for observation after receiving the shot, monitored by EMS and nursing staff.
  • Have floater nurses who can be deployed to help work a car with more than one or two people.
  • Provide access to bathroom facilities, which may mean bringing in porta-johns.
  • Before they exit, tell people what side effects to watch for and remind them about second-dose appointments.

“We were vaccinating 100 to 150 people per hour, and we ended up with a good bit of downtime,” he said. “We could’ve done up to about 2,000 if we’d had enough vaccine.”

Now that the processes have been road-tested, BMH may use community volunteers in the future, particularly nursing and medical students.

“We were using hospital employees who volunteered to work on a Saturday because that’s how important this is to them,” Baxley said. “We have a staff that steps up.”