COVID-19 Testing Misses the Mark on Person Identification

A few weeks ago, a customer approached us because they needed help connecting COVID-19 test results with each person who was tested; the testing location hadn’t collected contact information. We acted quickly and augmented the data so that people could be rapidly notified. This became directly relevant for a colleague of mine this last week:

My colleague’s mom, whom I’ll call Marie, was recently exposed to COVID-19 while visiting an assisted living community. The community’s coordinator contacted her and recommended a new, drive-through testing site.

Marie wasn’t referred through a doctor’s office, which would have connected her demographic data to a lab order.

Through Verato’s work with our Health Information Exchange customers and with state health departments, we understand the challenges in collecting and maintaining accurate identification information during COVID-19 testing. So, my colleague encouraged his mom to provide her address and phone number to the testing facility. 

Marie had been directed to download and complete a form ahead of time, including name, DOB, address, and phone. However, when she arrived at the test site, she wasn’t asked for the form. The technicians taking the swabs said they were directed to only collect name and date of birth (DOB). They reluctantly agreed to take the form when she handed it to them. In any case, it’s unclear if Marie’s contact information was associated with the test. 

As a side point, Marie also has a friend who has now been tested twice – once 12 days ago, and again two days ago. Her friend never got her results from the original test, perhaps because the site didn’t have her address or phone number. Given the chaos the crisis creates and the very fast ramp-up of testing, this is understandable. But it’s also a huge problem a) if we are testing people and then failing to give them their results, and b) if our public health agencies don’t have enough information to follow-up on positive cases.

Verato is trying to correct this very problem by properly linking each COVID-19 lab result to the person who was tested. We are using our software to help health agencies who—after testing--discover they can’t link people with their test results. We provide straightforward, fast ways to:

  1. Connect person data across systems and teams that suddenly need to be coordinated
  2. De-duplicate person records automatically, without manual effort
  3. Enrich records with missing demographic information like phone number and address, so that people don’t need to hunt and peck for this information

We’re collaborating closely with our customers as they work to improve upstream data collection prior to and during testing. Our goal is to do all we can to accelerate timely notification of COVID-19 testing results, supporting the care and safety of every person who gets tested.