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The fastest road to successful contact tracing


A new report from the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy outlines a road map for COVID-19 containment through data-driven contact tracing.

The report emphasizes the urgent need for better demographic data. Authors include a former leader of the Food and Drug Administration and a former National Coordinator of Health IT, along with experts in laboratory science and epidemiology. According to the authors:

“State and local public health investigations of COVID-19 cases are most often triggered by an electronic laboratory result. However, many of these laboratory results are missing key contact information.”

“While there is variation by state, commonly up to 50% of laboratory reports submitted to public health can lack patient address or zip code, which is a key demographic data element used in identifying infection clusters, localizing disease hotspots, contacting cases to complete investigations, and matching patient information, including for clinical queries through the CommonWell Health Alliance or the Carequality network {two interoperability networks representing leading electronic health record vendors}.”

Verato makes patient data complete and accurate

Verato is designed to make critical patient data complete and accurate by applying our next-generation identity matching technology. Even before the pandemic highlighted issues with lab data and matching results, Verato was addressing data quality issues for healthcare providers, payers, and HIEs, who depend on our Universal Master Patient Index ™ and Auto-Steward solutions.

Verato is unique in its approach to solving person identity data problems. We combine aspects of a nationwide information service (comprehensive, high quality data) with requirements of commercial master person index technologies (proven matching accuracy and identifier management at scale).

Our next generation identity data services marry our proprietary algorithmic matching with our continuously updated reference database spanning the entire U.S. population. Each identity in our database contains a complete, curated profile spanning 30 years of demographic data.

Let’s say that the lab is processing a COVID test result for Mary Smith. The testing team collected her cell phone number, but not her zip code. Verato’s algorithms can take the existing information about Mary Smith and quickly match her identity to the correct and complete profile that will include her current zip code. And if Mary moved recently, her former zip code will also be available, so there is less risk of mistaking her with another Mary Smith.

This data completeness and record matching means that lab teams and contact tracers save valuable time. They won’t need to spend time researching Mary’s zip codes or phone numbers, simply trying to identify who she is. They can immediately reach her and begin to trace her contacts.

A cloud-based system that’s fast to implement

The Duke-Margolis Center report recommends that laboratory vendors invest in a secure information service to provide required data elements that are commonly missing. “Such data service provider(s) would offer an application programming interface (API) enabling laboratories to transmit commonly available data from the laboratory order to the API and receive back the commonly missing data that can be appended to the COVID-19 results prior to submission to the states… Tools to supplement this data through Master-Patient Indices, especially using other data that might be available (e.g., Medical Record Numbers) would help increase the yield of successful queries.”

Verato identity services are cloud-based and immediately accessible through modern, well-documented APIs. Verato is known for its ability to quickly integrate with existing applications, and to easily scale to handle millions of patient records. These features help large healthcare organizations quickly deploy Verato. They’re equally applicable to laboratories. Verato could rapidly integrate with existing systems for real-time access to complete identity data.

With more accurate, complete information about each patient tested, laboratories would be able to send complete contact information to public health entities. Verato is ready to support and assist vital initiatives to expand contact tracing and reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Photo credit: Duke Health Policy