Assisted Contact Tracing — in Brief

I want to explain in a little more detail what I am working on now — I think the following, which I was working on for a press release, will help explain the project.

First off, ACT is a software used by healthcare workers, contact tracers, field organizers, and physicians working on the ground to track and predict the spread of the Ebola virus.

There are two components to Assisted Contact Tracing (ACT).

First, ACT collects and organizes data about the ebola outbreak through contact tracers. This data is available for us by organizations like the CDC and the WHO. Beyond that the identities of contacts and ebola patients is protected, allowing other organizations to look through the data for trends but not identify specific contacts.

Second, ACT helps contact tracers, health care workers and physicians prioritize cases that come up in the field. Rather than rifling through a gigantic list of contacts generated by an Ebola patient, the ACT system helps healthcare workers prioritize cases. The data provided by ACT provides contact tracers with context before they make visits: they will know before they walk into a community whether or not their contact is showing symptoms so that they can better prepare and protect themselves from infection.

ACT uses contact information collected by the initial contact tracers to generate automated calls in specific dialects back the contacts every day for the 21 day quarantine period to monitor for health/symptom changes. Once a contact reports that they are sick and their symptoms, ACT generates an SMS to local health care workers and physicians to report the case, contact information and location of the patient.

This measure cuts down on time for data collection and accuracy, and allows field workers and healthcare workers to build better strategies for patient outreach.

ACT is a critical tool for a few reasons.

First, it would limit the level of exposure to Ebola for healthcare workers, who are currently some of the people most at risk of being infected by the virus.

Second, the automated check-ups allow a suspected patient to remain isolated at home, rather than having to stay in an isolation ward. “ACT is important for the system to allow people to pursue their own healthcare, so [potential patients] don’t have to go into isolation. It also provides information on how to care for a family member in their home with limited resources,” say Camilla Hermann, Founder and Director for Odisi | ACT. ACT does not make cold calls. These automated calls are opt-in and only start after a doctor or contact tracer has first met and spoken with an Ebola patient or contact.

While ACT is currently geared towards the Ebola crisis, we think this program will have broader implications and potential applications in public health infrastructure around the world. I will continue to update based on our progress as we start getting into better field testing and data collection work.

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