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Contact tracing efforts are falling short: Technology tools can help

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If we are to control the spread of the coronavirus and limit the impact of COVID-19, we need to turn the corner on contact tracing. Testing and contact tracing go hand-in-hand to help fight the spread of any infectious disease.

When a person tests positive for COVID-19, contact tracers seek to find out who may have been exposed to the virus. Once they’ve identified people who may have been infected, they need to contact them and persuade them to get tested and self-isolate or quarantine until they get their test results.

Contact tracing is how the United States can slow down the spread of the coronavirus until a vaccine is developed. It’s the best tool we have, but we need to do it faster. And technology can help.

Current contact tracing challenges: State and county health departments alone can’t keep up

For the most part, contact tracing has fallen to state or county health departments, and to date, the results are not where we need them to be.

As Arizona is mired in an unprecedented spike of infections; their tracing organizations are getting overwhelmed and falling behind: And the virus keeps spreading.

Here in California, the story isn’t much better. A recent article in the San Jose Mercury discusses the lack of transparency being shown by local counties and how the information that is being shared is less than promising.

Technology for contact tracing: Forget proximity apps and leverage existing solutions

A pandemic isn’t the time to experiment with a nascent technology

There are some very cool ideas for applications out there, most famously the partnership between Apple and Google to provide a proximity tracking app that will leverage Bluetooth to identify everyone who a given person has been near over a certain period of time. Good stuff, very cool. As I write this, it is a nascent technology that is not in full production, and something that requires people to download and have active on their phone before it can do any good.

Proximity tracking will take time to come to fruition, but organizations need help now. Luckily, technology solutions exist that contact tracing teams can simply pull off the shelf and use today to significantly increase their productivity. For example, let’s talk about dialers.

Without dialers, contact tracers could easily spend 75% of their time manually dialing and only 25% of their time speaking with individuals. With dialers, however, they could flip that equation, a productivity increase of 300%. Click To Tweet

Increase your contact tracing team’s efficiency with dialers

With a dialer, a contact tracing team can take a list of people who need to be contacted and build a campaign around that list—the campaign will manage the prioritization, timing, and frequency of calls to the people on the list. Then, the system can handle the dialing so that the contact tracers can spend their time talking to the people they need to talk to, driving many more contacts per tracer. 

In contact centers, dialers have been known to increase agent productivity by 300%—with a dialer, agents can spend 45 minutes per hour talking to customers or prospects vs. 15 minutes when the agent has to spend their time listening to dial tones and ringing and voicemail machines and busy signals. This efficiency increase applies to contact tracing efforts, too.

Automated dialers enable contact tracers to spend as much as 300% more of their time engaged with contacts by eliminating unproductive activities (e.g., dialing, busy signals, voicemail) required to make a live connection.

There are many other tools that can help as well, so if you run a contact tracing team, please reach out to us. RingCentral can help—and we want to help.

RingCentral for Contact Tracing: Tools to help your organization

For more information on contact tracing, please watch our recent webinar with famed Harvard epidemiologist Dr. Michael Mina.

Originally published Jul 06, 2020, updated Dec 30, 2022

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