Contact tracing has become a necessity. Suddenly states, cities, and private organizations need help tracking exposure, and companies are answering the call. To meet this demand, health departments need both the people and technology to efficiently and effectively reach out to COVID positive or exposed individuals, interview them, document their answers, and while adhering to strict regulatory requirements.
To be successful, the tracers themselves must be properly trained on and onboarded to the tools that they will use. However, manual tasks, complicated tools, bulky processes, and unintuitive applications not only slow the onboarding process, but they can cause confusion and user error, generating negative results. Missing out on proper training can result in serious issues with the program, ultimately wasting precious time and costing lives.
Perry N. Halkitis, Dean of the School of Public Health at Rutgers says to be effective, contact tracers need to be in touch with 75% percent of a person’s contacts within 24 hours. Unfortunately, many organizations are struggling. New York hired over 3,000 tracers who were only able to perform tracing on 35% of COVID patients in the first two weeks. Moreso, the tracers had faced two weeks of training before even beginning work. England also struggled with its inexperienced tracers who failed to reach 1/3 of the people who had tested positive.
Contact tracing providers will need to rapidly onboard hundreds, if not thousands of tracers, the majority of whom will be relatively new and inexperienced. In New York, tracers are armed with nothing but a phone and a questionnaire, but to reach the desired numbers, contact tracers will need technologies to support them. The tools they use must be intuitive and streamlined so not only can they begin working quickly, but effectively as well.
Technology is a key component in successful contact tracing operations. But it must be properly designed and implemented in order to generate the outcomes needed. Tracers can use dialer applications that integrate with CRMs to quickly contact patients, gather the required information, automatically input contact information into a database, and then simply dial down lists to call exposed individuals.
The right contact tracing applications should be intuitive to use, be simple to implement, integrate completely, create a streamlined workflow, and eliminate manual tasks.
In contact tracing, time is of the essence, and that is why technology can help in two areas. Firstly, simple applications that allow tracers to call, text, email, and leave voice messages quickly and easily all within a single platform will not only make the contact tracing process simpler, but more efficient. The tools should automatically record all interactions to a database for accurate reporting.
Secondly, those tools must be easy to implement. The quicker an operation can be set up, the faster it can reach its goals. Contact tracing providers should choose tools that are simple and easy to implement. The applications should be simple to install on devices in a matter of minutes, should meet all security requirements, require minimal maintenance, and be self-sufficient. Organizations shouldn’t have to spend extra time and money setting up phone lines, tweaking settings, and installing applications.
A seamless implementation will allow for easier use, less downtime, and a more efficient setup. It also requires less technical knowledge and personnel.
The most important aspect of any case management software is that it is intuitive to use. The easier it is to understand and work within, the faster tracers will be able to effectively utilize it. Ease of use significantly reduces onboarding time and increases productivity. Tracers should find the tools they use to be simple, straightforward, and conducive to their workflow. That way, less time is spent learning the tool and therefore onboarding time is reduced.
Ideally, tracers are using a CRM or database to input contacts, track outreach, and monitor progress. To be as effective as possible, the telephony tools they use should integrate with the database application. This integration should allow tracers to simply click the phone number to dial, and the application should automatically record the action placed against it, as well as allow the tracer to easily input the outcome of the call (connected, left voicemail, etc.).
As with anything involved with healthcare, the case management software should be completely secure and compliant. The CDC recommends that the tool securely receives and transmits data, as well as uses encryption methods.
This integration will save precious time, create a smoother workflow, and increase the accuracy of the work. This increases the speed of onboarding since the work is less complex and less practice is needed to generate accurate results.
Since contact tracers must reach thousands of individuals, the workflow provided by their tools must allow them to work quickly and efficiently. The more complex the workflow, the more onboarding time is required, and the more opportunities there are for mistakes. Therefore the applications used by tracers must create a simple and streamlined workflow that allows them to move effectively and accurately through their process. This simple workflow also enables tracers to onboard faster by reducing the intensity of the work.
Any sort of automation provided by case management software is also a significant benefit. The CDC recommends a 14-day self quarantine for those who may have been exposed and therefore suggests that applications can automate a 14 day string of messages to keep patients updated and then automatically remove them from the list. Automation significantly reduces the workload that tracers face.
It’s important to remove as many of the mundane, repetitive tasks as possible. The fewer tasks that a tracer has to perform, and the easier it will be for them to onboard and get up to speed quickly. The elimination of tasks generates a faster process that requires less time to learn. A secondary benefit is that by removing busy work, it allows tracers to focus more on the conversations at hand, generating better results.