What is POD Assist?

POD ASSIST

POD Assist is a CDC web-based application that helps local and state health departments securely dispense and administer countermeasures to local populations through points of dispensing, or PODs. PODs include vaccination and dispensing clinics, and countermeasures include pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics, respirators, personal protective equipment, vaccines, and other medical materials.

Public health organizations can use POD Assist during public health emergencies, such as disease pandemics, natural disasters, or national security emergencies, to collect and track information about countermeasures administered or dispensed to the affected population. It supports tracking at both individual and aggregate levels, which allows public health departments at all levels to analyze and report data to CDC if needed.

POD Assist allows public health organizations to quickly screen and triage people needing assistance during a public health emergency and determine which medical countermeasure and dose to dispense. It also keeps track of inventory levels to support better decision making and allocation of resources by public health responders.

POD Assist Features and Benefits

Features

POD Assist is a free web-based application deployed centrally at CDC that uses CDC’s secure data access method. Public health organizations can configure it to collect data specific to a public health event of concern. Users can access it through the internet by using any standard web browser, or public health organizations can deploy it on a standalone basis if the internet is not available.

During a large public health event, use of mobile devices can enable mass collection of countermeasure dispensing and inventory data at a point of dispensing, or POD. Public health organizations can use the POD Assist mobile application’s bring your own device (BYOD) approach to collect barcode information without the need to buy computer equipment.

POD Assist features include:

  • collects data on vaccine doses administered and pharmaceuticals or medical equipment dispensed at any POD,
  • recommends countermeasures for each individual, by using clinical algorithms, based on the person’s own clinical circumstances,
  • supports referral to Medical Consult for individuals that do not meet the criteria,
  • allows for override by dispenser or medical staff, while keeping dispensing/override history,
  • provides QR codes and color-coded and human-readable dispensing recommendations,
  • supports both dedicated barcode readers and smart device cameras,
  • supports dispensing multiple countermeasures simultaneously (for example, COVID-19 and influenza vaccines being dispensed at the same POD and workflow),
  • transmits vaccine administration data to immunization information systems,
  • aggregates and reports doses administered,
  • exports data using CSV (comma separated values) format, and
  • conducts POD activity monitoring remotely.

Benefits

POD Assist reduces the burden on public health organizations as it requires minimal resources to implement and maintain. Its BYOD approach can reduce the need for funding and technology resources, which may be scarce and slow to acquire during an emergency.

POD Assist can assist with triaging and administering countermeasures while reducing the effort to collect and manage this information because users self-register. It also improves the efficiency of moving patients through a POD during an emergency.

POD Assist enables near real-time data collection and quick data sharing. Through analysis of POD Assist data, officials also gain insight into the scope and demographics of populations served.

How does POD Assist Impact Public Health?

POD Assist impacts public health

POD Assist began as the CDC Pre-event Vaccination System (PVS). CDC implemented PVS nationwide to track and monitor the administration of smallpox vaccine as part of the 2003 National Smallpox Preparedness Program.

In 2009 during the response to the H1N1 influenza (swine flu) pandemic, CDC used POD Assist to monitor the amount of vaccine administered during the first weeks of the vaccination campaign to protect against the virus. This helped public health officials quickly evaluate vaccination campaign effectiveness.

State public health departments used POD Assist in 2015 to monitor and report persons returning from West Africa with Ebola exposure.

CDC also used it during the 2019–2022 CDC Personnel Influenza Vaccination Campaigns and the 2021 and 2022 CDC Personnel Coronavirus Disease Vaccination Campaigns. During 2021, CDC distributed more than 11,000 vaccine doses to staff by using POD Assist.

For more information, e-mail ctscloud@cdc.gov.

How does POD Assist work for public health organizations?

POD Assist supports organizations that dispense medical countermeasures during public health emergencies, such as local or state health departments and federal agencies, by supporting dispensing workflows:

  • First, the public health organization contacts the POD Assist team with a request to set up a dispensing event.
  • The POD Assist team assesses the request and helps the public health organization set up a dispensing event through POD Assist.
  • The public health organization provides information about the dispensing event to the population affected by the public health emergency.
  • Dispensers use smart phones at the dispensing event to help administer and track countermeasures; no special training is needed to become a dispenser.

How does POD Assist work for populations affected by public health emergencies?

POD Assist mobile app

Once a public health organization has set up a dispensing event, POD Assist lets members of the population affected by the public health emergency register themselves and their dependents through their mobile device to receive countermeasures from a point of dispensing:

  • Once a person registers, POD Assist creates a QR code and displays it on the person’s mobile device.
  • The person presents this QR code to staff at the POD.
  • POD staff scan the QR code, which then displays the appropriate countermeasure to provide to the person.
  • POD Assist records the registration and countermeasure dispensed for each person, helping to reduce the data entry burden on public health staff.

For more information, e-mail ctscloud@cdc.gov.

Implementation Guide

For public health organizations wanting to use POD Assist:

POD Assist has been used by CDC and public health departments
  1. Please send an email message with your request to set up a dispensing event to ctscloud@cdc.gov.
  2. If required, the POD Assist team can provide a demonstration of POD Assist capabilities and benefits for your dispensing operation.
  3. The POD Assist team will work with you to set up proper accounts, events, and data use agreements.
  4. Once the event is set up and depending on the level of access provided, you may be able to create your own accounts and let your staff have access to POD Assist.
  5. After you are set up, the POD Assist team will coordinate with you to “publish” your dispensing event and help you start using the system.
  6. During the event, the POD Assist team will provide remote support and assist you in managing your event.
  7. Once the event is complete, the POD Assist team will assist in transferring the event data to you and removing it from the POD Assist system.

For the populations affected by a public health emergency:

POD Assist mobile app
  1. An organization partnering with CDC will set up a dispensing event with POD Assist.
  2. Once the event has been published, the organization will let you know how to access the registration site in POD Assist. This can be done through an internet address or a QR code.
  3. After accessing the registration site, you will be able to register and receive your registration information and possible eligibility to receive a medical countermeasure. During registration you will receive a personalized QR code that you can bring to the point of dispensing (POD).
  4. Once at the POD, present your QR code, which will be scanned by staff and help move you through the process to receive your countermeasure or Medical Consult, if necessary.

FAQs

My public health organization would like to use POD Assist to dispense medical countermeasures; how do I get started?

If you are interested in using the CDC POD Assist application, please contact the POD Assist team at ctscloud@cdc.gov.

I am organizing a vaccination campaign; how soon can I start dispensing vaccine using POD Assist?

Setting up a dispensing event in POD Assist can be done easily, with several factors determining how quickly. These include number and type of countermeasures being dispensed (vaccines vs. medications), clinical algorithms used for dispensing, and point of dispensing (POD) logistics and workflow. The POD Assist team has experience setting up such events and can help expedite this process.

Do I need to be a doctor or nurse to become a dispenser using the POD Assist mobile app?

No. Any volunteer or staff member can become a dispenser if the local public health organization provides them with credentials (user accounts) in POD Assist. During public health emergencies, medical expertise can be limited. POD Assist’s clinical algorithms are designed to provide guidance so that anyone can use it. When registering, a person will answer questions from a clinical algorithm; at the end, per their answers, the person will receive a personalized QR code with the respective medical countermeasure. When a person does not meet the criteria for receiving a medical countermeasure, POD Assist generates a QR code for a Medical Consult, thus directing the person to be handled in a separate workflow.

I’ve heard that my local/state health department is using POD Assist. How do I get my medical countermeasure?

Please contact your local/state health department or local organization as they can provide information about how to register and where to go to receive your medical countermeasure.

Do I need to download the POD Assist mobile app to get my medical countermeasure?

No. Members of the general public do not need to download a mobile app to get their QR code with a medical countermeasure recommendation. Instead, they should go to the website provided by their local organization and follow the instructions on how to register and where to go to get their countermeasure.

Why is there a POD Assist mobile app if I do not need it to get a medical countermeasure?

The POD Assist system uses mobile app technology to let volunteers or staff from a local public health organization serve as dispensers in a POD that uses POD Assist. This technology allows the local organization to rapidly empower volunteers to set up a POD and dispense using the resources at hand. It also reduces costs as there is no need to buy equipment in advance. The POD Assist mobile app is used to dispense medical countermeasures, including validating registration QR codes, verifying clinical information, and submitting dispensing information.

What security measures are in place to protect the data that are submitted to CDC?

As a government agency, CDC is bound by federal law that dictates the specific information security rules and processes that must be followed. To comply with these rules, POD Assist uses the CDC Secure Access Management Services (SAMS) portal for electronic authentication. SAMS provides secure access to applications within the CDC environment and functions as the authentication gateway to POD Assist.

For more information, e-mail ctscloud@cdc.gov.