A software tool enables doctors to absorb a complicated set of information before telling patients which vaccinations to get or when to get them. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) https://www.nist.gov created the tool with the assistance of CDC https://www.cdec.gov to help doctors make better decisions.
The software tool the Forecasting for Immunization Test Suite (FITS) https://fits.nist.gov/fits#/home helps ensure that doctors are getting correct and up-to-date recommendations about when patients should get their vaccines.
While doctors are responsible for the final decision, computers are vital resources in the process, as immunization schedules can change in response to new medical research and providers must stay current with new information.
“Children get more vaccinations these days and get them more often,” said NIST Computer Scientist Mike Indovina. “As medical knowledge is constantly updated, the schedules become a moving target. It is difficult for doctors to keep up and know which vaccines a patient should get next especially if the patient misses a visit.”
To help doctors keep up, state healthcare systems use computerized Immunization Information Systems (IIS) which keeps track of patients’ immunization records, but also have software that recommends future vaccinations. It is no longer as easy as following a schedule because the software may be modified several times a year as researchers gather new data on vaccines.
According to Mike Indovina, in some cases, a particular disease is on the rise and requires changes to the vaccination schedule, or a brand new vaccine formula for an illness might come out. This may change the timing for an existing vaccine, or it could change which formulation to receive.”
The FITS tool puts IIS software through its paces by executing more than 800 test cases that CDC created. Each test case for a single person’s situation and vaccination schedule should generate a specific immunization recommendation or forecast by the IIS.
FITS measures how closely these forecasts align with the recommendations and standards created by the medical communities. FITS also automates the testing process and enables test cases to be developed, maintained, and shared nationwide.
FITS used by the American Immunization Registry Association (AIRA) https://immregistries.org is able to measure the correctness of immunization recommendations across a large subset of the nation’s IIS. It has been noted, that from the second quarter of 2019 to the third quarter of 2020, 56% of the systems AIRA tested improved recommendations, according to computer scientists.
AIRA is planning to use FITS for testing COVID-19 vaccine support now that vaccines have become available. This will help providers address another problem that has grown since the pandemic which is that some children are falling behind on their recommended vaccinations. The IIS software will guide how parents and doctors should address catch-up schedules to ensure that catch-up doses are given appropriately.