By Robert L. Moore, MD, MPH, MBA, Chief Medical Officer
“Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The challenge is to find out what works and scale it up.”
-Bill Clinton, former U.S. President
In spite of several months of planning, the scaling up of the COVID vaccine has been challenging. Often, the scaling up of successful pilot programs and improvement projects encounter problems. Successful large scale implementation is a skill set not necessarily associated with good intentions, innovative thinking, or the size of the organization.
Stephen Dubner offers a nice introduction to this challenge in a Freakonomics Radio podcast, from early 2020.
In the last 10-15 years, a new social science concept called “Implementation Science” seeks to explain the factors leading to implementation challenges and how to overcome them. Several of these frameworks on how to increase the success of large scale implementation were combined into a Consolidated Framework for Implementation.
Here are a few major reasons that scaling up of successful pilots may fail:
- The pilot did not actually work (look at the actual data, not the hype).
- The people studied in the pilot are not representative of the general population.
- Efforts to scale up implementations cut corners and no longer follow key aspects of the pilot program.
- Scaling up does not account for limited supply of qualified staff and other inputs.
- Scaling up assumes the “build it and they will come” theory; that demand for the intervention will spontaneously be high. An insufficient marketing plan is included.
Over the course of our careers, as we experience or witness failed implementations, it is too easy to develop a sense of fatalism about many proposed expansions. In the case of mass COVID vaccination, our society, health care delivery system, and economy, demand that we have a different mindset. Successful implementation is hard, it is a skill-set, but it importantly reflects a “can do” mindset, not a “can’t do” mindset. It means tackling challenges head on, seeking new solutions to problems encountered, including the key challenge of vaccine hesitancy.
We at PHC thank you, and your staff, for your work on promoting COVID vaccination among your staff and in your community, in the weeks ahead.