Keeping up with any form of news means you’ve likely heard about the concern of contact tracing. From France to the United Kingdom and especially here in the U.S., “the results have been embarrassing,” to quote a recent Digital Trends article.
Even we, as techies, have struggled to keep up with this contact tracing approach that, just a few months ago, hadn’t been common knowledge. Suddenly, new developments are reported daily: “it’s saving lives,” to “it’s not efficient enough” and now “why isn’t anyone using the apps?” What was once a novel concept to the majority has evolved tremendously in a short time span.
With ImageSoft family members dotted all over the map, we have seen firsthand the widespread struggles of resurging case numbers and hot spot flare-ups. As a people-first organization with a technology niche, contributing to contact tracing is how we’re doing our part to flatten the curve and protect our friends and family. As we do our best to continue understanding contact tracing and how it’s supporting mitigation efforts, we thought to share what we’ve learned in the hopes that these tools and insights might also help you stay ahead of flattening the curve.
Let’s start with the core of contact tracing – what in the world does that mean?
On our contact tracing webpage, we define contact tracing as an effort to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus. Through digital surveys, typically administered by text message or email, COVID-19 patients can work with nurses and epidemiologists to symptom monitor, report who they’ve been in contact with, places they’ve gone and their test results. Doing so supports patients in regaining their health, and reduces the spread by quickly notifying any potentially exposed people so that they can quarantine and get tested.
Wait, I’ve also heard about proximity tracing. They’re different?
We’re so glad you asked – yes! In addition to contact tracing, proximity tracing is a Bluetooth initiative that allows smartphones to detect and notify you when someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 is in close proximity. Think about it as a sort of “handshake” of the phones.
The goal is to alert people of potential hot spots, or if they’re near someone who has been diagnosed with Coronavirus and may still be a carrier.
We have the tools – great! What’s next?
Believe it or not, actually using them.
Young people aren’t likely to take the time to participate in contact tracing phone calls. Data security concerns with Bluetooth technology are amuck. Trust in Big Tech companies is shaken.
Tracing What’s Next
Working with a couple Michigan-based Public Health Departments, we’ve come to learn that earning the public’s trust and, consequently, their participation, means a couple things:
- Remove the “opt-in” barriers so users can, within seconds, update their symptoms and move on with their day. No one wants to sign up for anything and freely give away so much personal information.
- The source matters. Apple, Google and other tech giants have never been involved in public health. They’re trying to do an extremely positive thing by supporting contact tracing efforts, but the public can’t make the trustful connection between an average Joe tech supplier and a pandemic.
Our tech-based nature helped us catch on to the first point fairly quick. But the second? We only realized the issue of source after being blown away when one of our customers, The Ottawa County Public Health Department, reported a more than 91 percent response rate from their users. Reading more about other tracing applications, the only difference we could highlight is that this contact tracing application was born within a public health department, designed to support epidemiologists, nurses and other front-line workers.
As schools across the nation try to safely reopen, businesses strive to stay in business and public health departments keep working to stop the spread, understanding what is and isn’t working will be critical.
Join Us As We “Trace What Works”
In our attempt to share with you as much as we know about contact tracing efforts, we hope you’ll join us for the webinar “Tracing What Works: The Tried-And-Tested Case Management Tool for Contact Tracing.” In one hour, we’ll demo the easily stood-up, integrative solution successfully supporting two Michigan Health Departments in not only their pandemic response, but also their day-to-day efforts. You can do your homework on the solution here and come prepared with all your questions for the live Q&A.
If you wish to join us live, the webinar will begin at 2pm EST on Thursday, Sept. 24th. But don’t fret if your calendar is already booked – we send a recorded copy of the webinar to all registrants, so register anyways and watch when you have the time. Please, don’t miss this.