Contact tracing solutions: What works best?

COVID-19 has become a part of our current reality with which businesses have to cope. Although many businesses have in place health protocols that help prevent the spread of the virus, there is always a risk that someone in the workplace becomes infected and passes it on to their colleagues.


Contact tracing is one of the solutions that helps keep businesses safe and open. It is defined simply as the identification and follow-up of persons who may have come into contact with someone infected with the virus. In case of an outbreak, this process can help identify who has been in close contact with those infected and provide guidance on who should self-isolate, thus helping limit further spread and hopefully, eliminating the need to shut down operations.


However, contact tracing is still a relatively new concept and there is a lot of uncertainty in terms of how best to manage it. Over the past few months, several solutions have been developed including manual contact tracing, smartphone apps and more sophisticated software solutions. In this blog post, we break down the pros and cons of each type of solution to help you make the best decision for your business.


Manual Contact Tracing

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Manual contact tracing is the most basic option available. The process begins with a contact tracer interviewing someone with a confirmed case of the illness. This mostly concerns whom a sick individual has seen recently, particularly in the 2 weeks leading up to their diagnosis. From there, tracers are able to call that list of individuals, which can often be expensive. Tracers can not only recommend a quarantine procedure, but also monitor health through phone calls or self-reporting measures. 


As you can see, this can become quite an extensive process, leading to high labor costs. Additionally, human error is a very real concern. Because of the sheer amount of documentation and analytical processing, it’s easy to make mistakes. Additionally, people are likely to forget everyone that they came into contact with and for how long, especially over a two week period. That higher risk tends to lead to lower accuracy than other measures. 


Some research suggests that manual contact tracing is too slow to make much difference. For example, if it takes two days to conduct interviews after someone has tested positive for COVID-19, it may be too late to limit the spread of the virus in that case. Plus, contact tracing can be difficult in areas where social distancing is nearly impossible. It’s certainly better than nothing, but many organizations don’t have the bandwidth or labor force to take on the data collection, interview, and follow-up procedures required to make this form of contact tracing work.


Contact Tracing Applications


Many organizations are experiencing success with contact tracing applications and a recent influx of applications means there are plenty to choose from. Progressive companies have quickly adopted technologies such as COVID Alert in Canada or state-specific apps created by an Apple-Google partnership in the United States. These applications are easy to deploy and tend to be inexpensive. Using them certainly doesn’t entail the labor costs and sheer human capital required by manual tracing. 


On the other hand, downsides of apps such as these mean that every employee is required to have a working, charged smartphone. In many companies, this is not always the case - so who is responsible for that adoption and the associated costs? 


Additionally, some individuals perceive such apps as intrusive, or an invasion of privacy, especially when suggested (or required) by their employer. There is a significant concern about data being collected when not on work time or premises. In fact, many labor unions have expressed anxiety around which data is being collected and how, and how collection of that data might violate current labor laws. Many people fear the lines blurring between being “on the clock” and how they engage in their personal lives. That may lead to employees leaving their phone in one spot or not taking it with them everywhere, which renders the entire process pointless. 


Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS)


The most advanced method of contact tracing, an RTLS solution with wearables, has several benefits that appeal to savvy companies. This type of solution uses connected devices to rapidly identify all the employees and areas that have been in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 and perform data-driven decontamination and attend to those at-risk to stop the spread of the virus within your establishment.


Using this sort of tracing technology, companies can automatically trace contacts and encourage social distancing, while preventing significant monetary losses and operational bottlenecks. Such technology allows users to analyze foot traffic to identify high-risk areas as well as reduce secondary cases within a workspace. (Think of how rapidly you could reduce cases if you were able to quickly access accurate and customized reports). 


Furthermore, these solutions respect your employee’s privacy by managing data through a device that is not connected to their personal phone, thereby preventing that “blurred line” that so many individuals state as a contact tracing concern. 


Safeteams Makes Contact Tracing Easy

For companies who take contact tracing seriously, Safeteams is a natural solution. We offer an integrated technological solution with wearables that is not only fully private but GDPR compliant. We also don’t provide a one-size-fits-all approach, but recognize unique needs and employ a fully scalable, accurate, and customizable approach to meet those specific needs. Users can rely on central information provided in one secure platform, leveraging real-time reporting on contacts, times of interactions, and more. 


Businesses are faced with a great challenge, maintaining operations in a safe environment according to recommendations from health authorities. Additionally, company leaders are tasked with supporting employee health while also respecting their privacy and data security. Safeteams makes all of that possible, with turnkey integration and fast deployment. Safeteams makes safety simple - learn how by requesting a demo for your workspace today. 

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