Demystifying Digital Contact Tracing the Age of Pandemics
In the age of COVID-19, many “new” technical terms are coming to the surface with the public wondering about what these terms and technologies can do to better protect themselves and their loved ones.
The fact is, in the times of viruses and pandemics, medicine isn’t enough to do the job and technology, must step up the plate.
What is Contact Tracing?
Contact tracing is an essential part of epidemiology, the branch of medicine which deals with the incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors relating to health.
Contact tracing is the process of identifying, assessing, and managing people who have been exposed to a disease to prevent onward transmission. In other words, Contact Tracing is essential for tracking who is infected and who is he/she infecting onwards. When correctly applied, contact tracing is one of the essential components when it comes to flattening the curve of any pandemic and when it comes to COVID-19, it is an essential public health tool for controlling the spread of the virus.
How does Contact Tracing for COVID-19 work?
According to the CDC, Contact tracing for COVID-19 requires identifying people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and following them up daily for 14 days from the last point of exposure.
The methodology sounds a lot more like a prolonged in depth interview or “medical investigation”, the patient works with the contact tracer on filling in the data of their movements and people they may have come in “close contact” with in 14 preceding days.
What can Technology do when it comes to Contact Tracing?
At Extreme Solution, we have partnered with PathCheck, a volunteer-led initiative dedicated to building free, privacy preserving, open source technologies and interoperable standards to help contain the pandemic and re-open the economy.
This partnership has resulted in two complementary solutions, the first of which is Safe Places, a digital contact tracing platform and the second is a revolutionary GPS/GAEN based mobile application for users called PathCheck.
What is Safe Places?
Safe Places gives public health authorities and contact tracers tools they can use to enhance manual contact tracing with digital capabilities. These include:
- Recording and using location data from manual interviews (e.g. looking up a location to confirm it was the right location or recording a location for the contact tracing follow-up).
- Tools to analyze the location information that a PathCheck user who is COVID-19 positive voluntarily shares with the health authority.
- The ability to publish de-identified location data about places where exposure may have occurred and notify PathCheck users of that information so they can get in touch with their health authority to determine if they need to get tested, self-quarantine or take another action.
- Tools that help epidemiologists identify potential hot spots so they can act proactively to contain outbreaks.
Overall, we at Extreme Solution have been proudly working with PCI to ensure that Safe Places is designed to help make contact tracers more efficient and effective.
Why is this Contact Tracing technology important now?
First of all, it is less important and more essential than ever as it speeds up the actual restarting of the economy and gears the world towards a COVID-19 Free state.
Simply put, to trace, test, treat is a proven strategy endorsed by the WHO to reduce viral spread. When there is a verified case, it is important to start testing individuals around the confirmed patient quickly, preferably even before symptoms have been developed, this is one of the most effective strategies to reduce viral spread. Simply put, the quicker you get information and the more accurate this information is, public fear is reduced and the curve can finally be flattened.