As America begins to reopen, one of the most critical sets of tools we will have in our tool box is the ability to leverage a combination of testing and contact tracing. These mechanisms enable us to use a more precise approach to any future closings that occur as opposed to mass shutdowns. Being able to understand who is infected and then be able to trace from there to inform and monitor those who may be in that chain offers real promise. To also note, this is complicated by the fact that the period before carriers become symptomatic is so long and so many appear to be asymptomatic. Nonetheless contact tracing combined with testing and other diagnostic activities is critical because of the value there is in chasing infection node trees and hopefully pruning future nodes before they spawn their own trees.
In reading a great research article put out by the National Institute of Health (November 2015), “Ebola virus disease contact tracing activities, lessons learned and best practices during the Duport Road outbreak in Monrovia, Liberia”, it is made evident how effective this approach can be in stopping chains of transmission that fuel the spread of infectious diseases. It’s also a great primer on how Contact Tracing has matured over time and includes some great lessons learned. While COVID-19 looks to be much trickier due to longer incubation periods and more asymptomatic spread, the idea that finding and identifying people who have been in contact with known carriers and asking them to quarantine and monitor themselves for symptoms as well as to share their contacts makes a lot of sense.
Unfortunately, this more traditional manual approach still has many of the same privacy issues that are making headlines with regard to big data and technology based approaches. Sharing location, medical and other personal information is always going to be sensitive and people will not be honest or cooperative if they see a potential negative consequence. This is what makes accompanying policy supporting the ability and incentives for workplaces and workers to disclose and participate so important. Social stigma, wage loss, liability, privacy and other disincentives need to be openly addressed for any of these solutions to work properly.
People Centric Not Manual
However, the promise of being able to have more targeted tools for slowing virus transmission means that people may need to embrace testing and contact tracing as simply necessary for sustaining economic recovery. At our company we are primarily focused on a people centric approach to contact tracing because we believe this approach combines a high rate of effectiveness with the fewest privacy challenges and can be implemented the quickest when compared to the types of call tracing, geolocation and other big data/techcentric approaches which will inevitably hit big policy roadblocks on the path to implementation. Manual contact tracing also doesn’t have to be quite as manual as described in many of the case studies and literature floating around today.
We are combining two of our products in order to deliver comprehensive data collection, evaluation and analysis capabilities to support Contact Tracing. On the ExAM4Inspections.com side, we are leveraging our ability to support Contact Tracers in the field, mobile testing facilities or anywhere a tracer may need to work in order to gather the information needed to find and follow up with contacts. This means utilizing the full suite of our mobile apps, pre-built data collection and assessment templates as well as our Training and Certification suite to support transitioning into a Contact Tracing role from other careers. On the ExAM4Enterprise side, we are leveraging all of the automation tools we have in place to gather information from people remotely and automatically in the context of individual contacts, developing bridges to remote health monitoring solutions and otherwise ensuring that Contact Tracers can cover more ground by automating some of the work that has traditionally been done manually based on events and schedules that generate from ExAM’s Event Distribution Center.
For us, this was easy. The tools work together because underneath the covers they are one and the same. We’ve spent years marketing them separately to avoid confusing our customers, but our Contact Tracing response to COVID-19 draws equally from the forms, survey, and complex data collection capabilities customers on the ExAM4Enterprise.com side love as well as the ability to work mobile, offline, train, certify, manage supplies and automate scheduling that has made our ExAM4Inspections.com products so popular. In fact, working through the development of our Contract Tracing Accelerator has made us question how we market ExAM, the underlying Salesforce AppExchange product that powers both of these products. Maybe it’s time to bring these tools back under one roof. I know that in this time of crisis brought on by COVID-19 these converged capabilities will be a critical part of how we open and stay open and we look forward to providing these to our current and future customers.