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Improving contact tracing outcomes with unified communications and contact center solutions

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There’s an old fable I keep thinking about during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the story of the scorpion and the frog. In the story, a scorpion desperately wants to get across a river. He approaches a frog and asks if he can get a ride on the frog’s back. The frog refuses. After all, scorpions are killers, and the frog fears for his life if he helps it.

But the scorpion reasons with the frog. “If I sting you in the river,” the scorpion says, “we both drown. So I won’t do that.” The argument makes sense to the frog, who then lets the scorpion ride on his back across the river. Halfway across, however, the scorpion stings the frog. As the two sink to their deaths, the frog looks at the scorpion and asks, “Why did you do that?”

“I can’t help it,” the scorpion replies. “It’s in my nature.”

Not the most uplifting story, but I view it with a more positive twist in light of the pandemic. It’s great to see situations where companies are helping just by doing what they do well. For example, by improving the efficiency of food distribution, Imperfect Foods is making a significant difference in a time of significant need. Imperfect Foods just received a significant infusion of cash, not from the government or from any charitable organization. They actually received a $72 million dollar Series C round of investment led by Insight Partners.

It’s just their nature, and during this time, it makes a difference.

The contact tracing outreach 3-step process

The guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the flow of communications that drive the contract tracing process can be summed up in the following three steps:

While the above is all very clinical, these are important steps to make in the process. This is upsetting news for a contact tracer to share, so these conversations need to be handled with care. Contact tracers also need to be informed about all of the support and resources available to them.

For each of the steps in the contact tracing workflow, there are ways RingCentral solutions can help:

1. Identify the patient and reach their contacts quickly with communication tools

When someone is confirmed to have the coronavirus, the contact tracing process kicks off. The infected person is contacted, informed, and instructed to isolate. They’re then asked for the names of anyone they’ve recently contacted who could become infected.

For this step, RingCentral’s communication tools make a big difference. We can handle phone calls and SMS messages. We also provide high-quality audio and video connections for these sensitive conversations. For high-volume situations, RingCentral’s automated dialer capabilities allow companies to reach many more contacts than would be possible dialing manually.

2. Notify primary parties quickly using dialers for increased productivity

Once someone has been identified as infected, their primary contacts need to be informed that they may have been exposed. On average, for each infected person, tracers will likely need to reach out to five of the patient’s contacts. Each contact must be informed that they’ve been exposed, instructed how to get tested, and told how to self-quarantine.

For this step, RingCentral’s dialer also makes a significant difference. This step requires tracers to reach out to the highest amount of contacts, so speed of contact is critical. 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%. Dialers provide list and campaign management tools to ensure everyone is contacted and calls are made in the proper priority order.

3. Follow up with faster, more efficient contact tracing teams

After the initial contact, tracers need to follow up to make sure those exposed are doing alright, getting the support they need, and staying quarantined. They also need to make sure contacts receive the information they need.

Similar to the first step, RingCentral tools make these interactions faster and more efficient. For large contact tracing teams, RingCentral makes it easier to manage contact lists and make sure everyone is contacted and helped.

Organizations need to be able to scale up quickly during a spike of inbound and outbound calls

In addition to the outreach outlined above, contact tracing teams need to manage a significant amount of inbound calls. People will require basic information, such as testing locations, and need to check in to report testing positive or to better understand the resources available to them.

With RingCentral, contact tracing teams can provide self-service applications—from simple informational menus to complex speech-driven applications if needed. And the systems can automatically connect callers to the most appropriate available contact tracer if a live conversation is required—all while handling both inbound and outbound calls.

And because we do this in the cloud, we can provide the sort of flexible and elastic scaling that contact tracing organizations need to stay small and agile—but with the ability to scale up quickly should cases spike.

UCaaS and CCaaS solutions at scale can make a difference during the pandemic

This is a very different sort of blog for me to write. I don’t normally talk so much about the specifics of what our products do. In this case, our capabilities can make a big difference for a lot of people and help slow the pandemic.

It’s comforting to see how RingCentral can make a difference in a way that can save lives and help our economy open up more quickly. Contact tracing at scale is a new endeavor, and I believe many of the people involved may not be familiar with the value unified communications as a service (UCaaS) and contact center as a service (CCaaS) solutions can bring to contact tracing.

I hope this blog at least helps them find some way to get more information on how tools like ours can make a difference. I believe we can help stem the spread of COVID-19 and help keep our world more manageable until a vaccine is found. And I’d like to see RingCentral make a difference.

It’s just our nature, and during this time, it makes a difference.

Contact tracing webinar

To learn what organizations need to do to make contact tracing really work, watch RingCentral’s informative on-demand webinar featuring special guest Dr. Michael Mina, renowned Harvard epidemiologist and leading expert on infectious diseases.

Originally published Jun 24, 2020, updated Jan 07, 2024

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