Technology: A vital role for contact tracing preparedness, readiness and action
The current pandemic environment sees our aged care facilities facing ongoing challenges to mitigate the risk of a second wave of infections. Ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of residents, staff and visitors is of the highest priority. How can technology assist to reduce the risks of COVID-19 outbreaks in Australia’s aged care facilities?
Today, it’s impossible to eradicate COVID-19 from Australia. However, some strategies can help reduce the risk of community transmission when a positive case is identified. These strategies include contact tracing and effective infection prevention.
Aged care facilities that implement infection control measures and contact tracing functionality to their systems are in a better position to prevent or stem outbreaks of COVID-19 because they’ll know who has been on-site, when they were there and whom they were in contact with.
What is contact tracing?
According to WHO, contact tracing is the process of identifying, assessing, and managing people who have been exposed to COVID-19 to prevent further community transmission. It works to stop the chain of transmission by implementing a systematic approach and process for tracking that transmission.
Suppose a suspected case of COVID-19 is identified in the facility. In that case, the person must isolate and all people that may have come into contact with them must be identified, tested and also self-isolate. When an effective contact tracing system is implemented, this process can be quickly and efficiently executed, reducing the risk of secondary transmission in the workplace.
Why is it so important and hard to do in aged care?
Older adults, particularly those with underlying medical conditions, are at a higher risk or more serious illness if they are infected with the coronavirus. According to the Department of Health, 97% coronavirus-related deaths reported in Australia have been in adults 60 years and older, with the majority of deaths reported in males aged between 70 to 89 years.
More recently, with Victorian aged care facilities becoming a hot spot for the spread of the virus, there is a strong focus on infection control measures to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus. However, the challenge is intensified in aged care facilities as they house a population highly vulnerable to COVID-19, living in close quarters to each other.
Aside from residents and staff, aged care facilities also receive visitors, contractors, visiting nurses and other support workers every day. Knowing whom a person may have come in contact with, ranging timeframes from that day or up to two weeks, is an enormous task. Further, relying on effectively tracing through recollection from seniors who are living with dementia, adds another layer of complexity to contact tracing in aged care facilities.
Time is critical in backtracking an infected individual or a person showing symptoms and taking necessary measures to isolate or test everyone who has been exposed to that person. As aged care facilities approach any situation such as this outbreak with urgency and empathy, they need a solution to help them trace their residents, staff and visitors’ whereabouts at all times.
It’s essential that through critical contact tracing preparedness, readiness and response action, infection control measures be implemented to help prevent further outbreaks and clusters in Australia.
Here’s how technology can help automate contact tracing
Technology can play a vital role in accelerating the contact tracing process and accurately pinpointing where people are. This process provides assurance and visibility over who’s isolating, who may be unwell, and who is working.
Contact tracing systems may use GPS location, RTLS and mobile apps to know where people are. Using real-time data to analyse movements in and out of a facility over any given time allows you to respond quickly and easily trace who may have come in contact with a suspected case.
Facilities can automate critical infection control processes using thermal imaging cameras, RTLS systems and contactless sign-in solutions to ensure a rapid response and quick action. These solutions can be integrated into existing nurse call systems and workflow management processes. This is where Vitalcare can help.
Automated temperature checks with contactless thermal imaging cameras
Integrating thermal imaging cameras into existing nurse call systems allows facilities to accurately check body temperatures without the need for physical contact, freeing up staff to care for residents. This technology ensures all residents, staff and visitors entering the premises have passed temperature checks before entering and exiting the facility.
Typically, they are mounted in entry areas and can simultaneously check multiple people’s temperature as they enter and exit. The camera automatically scans a person’s temperature and displays results in seconds – telling you if they have an average temperature or an elevated temperature and helping you determine if it’s safe for them to enter your facility.
Detailed records assist you as the operator with infection control and contact tracing. This allows you to respond quickly and take action to isolate and prevent further infection, while protecting all those in your facility
Track medical equipment, staff and residents with RTLS localisation
Contact tracing using a Real-Time Location System (RTLS) provides immediate tracking and management of medical equipment, staff and patients. Using a nurse call system and a network of radio beacons around the facility, you can see where every staff member is at a given time and all of this data is subsequently available through the Vitalcloud real-time dashboard. Accurate data and information mean smarter, more timely decision-making and better infection control processes for contact tracing. RTLS solutions allow healthcare and aged care facilities to effectively implement preventive measures against the spread of infectious diseases.
Track visitors, staff and contactors sign-ins/outs
Contactless sign-ins for visitors and staff is a simple way to track and monitor people’s time and attendance in your aged care facility. When a visitor arrives, they scan their QR code from their mobile to sign-in on the iPad. For staff and residents, a fast smartphone sign-in allows them to check in and out of your site quickly. This is a useful contact tracing process as facilities can see who is onsite at a given time, who was working and for how long, and all of this data is available through the real-time dashboard. This allows facilities to quickly identify who may have come in contact with a suspected positive case of COVID-19.
For contact tracing to be effective, everyone needs to remain on high alert and be equipped to move quickly in the event of a positive diagnosis.
Facilities with automated contact tracing protocols in place will be better positioned to ward off outbreaks, protect their residents and staff, and stay open.
Keep your facility safe for residents, staff and visitors. Call us today to arrange a virtual demo to see our thermal camera solutions for your facility.