Exposure Tracing Slows the Spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), Tuberculosis (TB) & More

By Madison Pittman

It’s certainly an interesting time to recognize World Tuberculosis Day (March 24). Never before have so many people been interested in tracking – and stopping – the spread of infection.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of understanding exactly who has been exposed to a contagious agent. Public health officials are investing a lot of time and money to track down people who may have been exposed to the virus in an effort to intervene and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Of course, targeted intervention efforts are most efficient. That’s why healthcare providers initially restricted coronavirus testing to individuals who had been exposed to someone with a known infection. In a time of scarce resources, it made sense to focus on those who were most likely to be infected.

Accurate data can help healthcare organizations effectively and efficiently track and respond to the spread of all kinds of contagious diseases, from novel coronavirus to tuberculosis (TB), bacterial meningitis, C. difficile infections and more.

Contact Tracing Gets Treatment to the Right People While Minimizing Unnecessary Harm

Despite the attention coronavirus is getting at the moment, tuberculosis remains the world’s deadliest infectious agent, according to the World Health Organization. When patients with known TB are admitted to hospitals, they’re placed in isolation rooms with negative air pressure; all healthcare providers wear masks, gowns and gloves whenever they interact with TB patients.

But sometimes, a patient isn’t diagnosed with TB until well after admission. In the interim, healthcare providers and auxiliary staff enter and exit the room without any personal protection. Once the patient’s disease status is known, accurate information about staff exposure to the patient can preserve health while also minimizing unnecessary harm.

Tracking Staff Exposure with Technology

Clean Hands – Safe Hands’ technology tracks staff members’ movement into and out of rooms. Our Concierge Contact Tracing service leverages our network of sensors and advanced analytics to provide detailed information about staff exposure. This information is presented in an easy-to-interpret visual, with each clinician represented as a circle and the size of the circle indicating the number of times they entered and exited the room; the larger the circle, the more time the clinician spent in the patient’s room.

This information is valuable. In the Guidelines for the Investigation of Contacts of Persons with Infectious Tuberculosis, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and National Tuberculosis Controllers Association state that “increasing the intensity and duration of exposure usually increases the likelihood of recent M. tuberculosis infection in contacts.” The guidelines further state that, “for optimal efficiency, priorities should be assigned to contacts, and resources should be allocated to … high- and medium-priority contacts. Priorities are based on the likelihood of infection and the potential hazards to the individual contact if infected.”

That data provided by Concierge Contact Tracing allows administration to quickly identify staff members who may need prophylactic treatment – and avoid potentially unnecessary antibiotic treatment of individuals who had minimal patient contact.

“Typically, the correct strategy in cases of exposure to highly contagious organisms is to react very conservatively,” says Chris Hermann, MD, PhD, CEO of Clean Hands – Safe Hands. In the case of TB exposure, that could mean offering TB testing and prophylactic antibiotic treatment to all workers who spent time with the patient. However, “that comes at additional cost and disruptions to workflow,” Hermann says. “The reality is that if you have 30 people working on a shift, likely only one or two interacted with the infected patient in a meaningful way.”

Exposure data can help administrators quickly identify which people are low-risk and high-risk, so resources can be efficiently deployed.

Clean Hands – Safe Hands Helping Halt COVID-19

A few hospitals have already used Clean Hands – Safe Hands exposure data and Concierge Contact Tracing to identify staff members who were likely exposed to novel coronavirus, allowing them to temporarily remove those people from the schedule until they can be tested and complete a self-quarantine, if needed. These measures protect the health and well-being of other employees, patients and even family members and friends of exposed employees.

Perhaps even more importantly, this data allows for the hospital to quickly identify which providers were not exposed to the patient. As COVID-19 continues to impact the hospitals in the US, there is going to be an increasing demand on the healthcare providers who are already overworked. It is not practical to quarantine a whole shift of providers for any exposure and easily accessible data can help hospital executives make informed decisions of how to best help their staff.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of quickly responding to contagious threats. Hospitals and healthcare systems that utilize the Internet of Things via technologies such as the Clean Hands – Safe Hands system will be well-prepared to manage current and future threats.

Contact Clean Hands – Safe Hands to learn more about preventing transmissions in your hospital.

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