As we enter winter and flu season, the nation is struggling to contain COVID-19. We’re falling behind on contact tracing, the process of following up with patients who test positive for coronavirus and their contacts.
When the pandemic began, public health experts said contact tracing would be key to winning the battle with the coronavirus. A just-released survey of 50 states found that “only 56% of those who tested positive were contacted by a health worker to get contact tracing information.”1 That leaves 44% of the positive cases without contact tracing to help stop the spread.
Although the 50-state survey addresses the impact of laboratory delays on contact tracing, Verato has learned about other causes, as we’ve spoken with health departments nationwide.
Two main reasons for contact tracing delays
At first, public health systems were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of COVID cases. Many had antiquated IT systems or understaffed teams, due to years of lower investment in public health. In response, health departments are upgrading or replacing their IT systems, on-boarding new staff, and shifting responsibilities between state and county levels where needed.
There’s a remaining issue that these changes can’t solve. About 80 percent of coronavirus test results are missing demographic information, and half don’t have addresses, as reported in the New York Times. It’s impossible to complete contact tracing if you don’t know how to contact the person who tests positive.
Verato Enrich solves the problem of missing contact information
Verato Enrich for Public Health can help. Verato Enrich draws on Verato’s proprietary Referential Matching™ to close the gaps in missing contact tracing data and to support public health analytics. Enrich can complete missing demographic information for the individual testing positive and for their contacts.
Enrich leverages Verato’s proprietary reference database of commercially-sourced demographic data. This comprehensive resource spans the entire U.S. over a 30-year history. Leading healthcare organizations throughout the U.S. already rely on Verato as an answer key for patient identity, keeping patient data accurate and real-time across multiple technology platforms. Now, public health departments are also deploying Verato, because:
- Enrich is a scalable solution that can be stood up within weeks to augment COVID-19 test records with additional details, including names, phone numbers, and addresses.
- Enrich uses modern APIs and is straightforward to integrate with other technology platforms, such as customer relationship management systems.
- Health departments can easily add data on Social Determinants of Health (such as occupation and/or race and ethnicity) to each testing record, supporting initiatives to reach vulnerable populations with more equitable access to testing and care.
With better information to support contact tracing, health departments are better positioned to achieve complete tracing within 24 hours, the gold standard for breaking the chains of transmission and slowing the spread of COVID-19.
 The COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States, October 2020 survey, COVIDd-19 Test Result Times