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How Contact Tracing Technologies Are Transforming Medical Advertising

Contact tracing has been at the core of infectious disease control since the 1920s. It was first used to curb the spread of syphilis and later for the prevention and linkage to medical care for HIV/AIDS patients. Hence, when the infectious COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was an easy choice to pick up to get the disease under control. However, a few things had to change to improve its efficacy and make the process faster and seamless. 

That's how digital contact tracing was born. It came to break the complex and labor-intensive process of traditional contact tracing by making it painless to track down coronavirus cases, figuring out their contacts, and getting these people to isolate if they had been infected. The invention has also helped reduce delays during the process and makes the process of following up and supporting infected contacts straightforward.

In this article, we'll discuss

How contact tracing has evolved
The three types of contact tracing tools
The opportunities contact tracing creates

How Contact Tracing Has Evolved In The Past Year

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about the most significant upsurge of contact tracing in U.S. history. According to an NPR survey, the U.S had only about 11,000 contact tracers at the beginning of the pandemic. These numbers would not cut it for a disease that spread so fast in such a vast country. Hence, public health experts urged Congress to increase the contact tracing workforce by at least tenfold, which they did, and by December 2020, there were more than 70,000 contact tracers in the country. Unfortunately, these numbers were still insufficient to investigate and respond effectively to each case, especially in the peak infection months.

The surge of infections in some months necessitated the emergence of electronic tracing tools, which hastened the process of assessing one’s risk of exposure to a COVID-19 patient. This digital evolution of contact tracing has made it possible for health practitioners to overcome the limitations of conventional contact tracing methods. Some of these limitations include contact notification delays, scalability, and effectiveness. However, it does come with its fair share of faults, such as the ongoing debate about its privacy-preserving protocols. Fortunately, a combination of the two methods has seen a tremendous improvement in contact tracing efficacy as it mitigates the limitations of the two and emphasizes their benefits.

The digital contact tracing methods leverage the power of mobile software applications, AI, machine learning, big data, self-reported data, Bluetooth, and GPS coordination to streamline contact tracing efforts. The digital intervention reduces human errors, bias, and data reporting gaps while also easing the stigma many infected persons feel about face-to-face interviews.

It is important to note that these digital tools can not be effective in isolation and must be integrated into public health systems that include health care personnel and testing services.

Contact Tracing Technologies That Will Transform Medical Advertising Over the Next 5 Years

The pandemic has influenced the universal implementation of electronic health solutions and reduced the barriers that delayed or stopped the adoption of these technologies. Big data and digital technologies currently serve as an alert system that facilitates rapid contact tracing and notification. Additionally, government policies are encouraging the use of digital health technologies in practical day-to-day use. So what are these technologies we keep going about? Read on to find out.

There are three leading contact tracing technologies in use: case management, proximity tracing, and symptom tracking. 

Case Management Tools 

These automate and streamline capturing and management of patient data. They are designed for public health personnel and can integrate with workflow management tools, like surveillance systems, to ensure faster and more efficient processes. Case management tools help case investigation staff to manage and reduce the burden of constant communication and follow-ups with patients. 

The tools help with contact identification by generating secure and confidential electronic surveys and self-report contacts. It also facilitates automated contact notifications to report contacts and daily contact follow-up. As part of the follow-up process, the tool can refer patients to suitable medical providers or support services. These tools will still be helpful many years after we have overcome the pandemic. Medical advertisers can jump on the opportunity offered by these tools to gather quality data in a short time. An excellent example of such a tool is Go.Data that was developed by WHO to manage complex outbreak data.

Proximity Tracing Tools

These provide location-based information gathered using either Bluetooth or GPS signals. These are primarily voluntary apps that one can install on their smartphones to notify them when they have been near COVID-19 patients. They also reveal whether you have been in contact with the patient for a long time. 

The proximity tools are limited to smartphone users and therefore limit rigorous contact identification, making them only effective alongside conventional tracing. But they make up for this deficiency by tracing multiple contacts in public spaces where traditional methods are inefficient. A popular proximity tracing tool is the Exposure Notification tool by Apple and Google.

Exposure Notification App

Apple and Google developed this technology to curb the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus by informing users of potential exposure. It requires users to integrate it on their smartphones and allows them to turn it off whenever they deem necessary. The app relies on Bluetooth signals to gather information on users while maintaining anonymity and without gathering location information. Any data collected is also considered confidential and is not shared with other Apple or Google users. 

The Exposure Notification tool identifies affected users and shares their one-time diagnosis key with other users who are potentially exposed to the virus. The app can reveal the date of exposure, your proximity to an affected user, and the duration of exposure. The information from the app can be shared with public health authorities with the same level of data usage, privacy, and security.

Symptom Tracking Tools

These help to monitor daily symptoms and self-report either through a mobile application or via SMS technology. They reveal the probability of coronavirus infection and the severity of the disease. They are most valuable when conventional tracing tools are lacking, such as when it is difficult to access a patient. They can also be relied on when daily check-in visits are not possible. 

Symptom tracking tools must be integrated with other systems (such as a healthcare CRM) and data surveillance tools to generate real-time syndromic data. The integration helps boost contact tracing efforts by ensuring contacts self-report – and if they do not, appropriate follow-up actions can be implemented. 

The technology relies on questions and algorithms to gather data. Additionally, some developers are exploring integrations and extensions that monitor parameters, such as breathing patterns and oxygen saturation levels, strengthening contact tracing efforts.

Marketing Opportunities Resulting From Contact Tracing Technologies

Contact tracing technologies have had their fair share of controversies, oppositions, and challenges. However, they have given rise to multiple marketing opportunities for healthcare companies that will outlive the pandemic. These opportunities are amplified when combined with mindful oversight, abiding by federal and local data protection regulations, and other measures that ensure data privacy and protection for its users.

According to a study, only 37.8% of the participants had already adopted the use of contact tracing apps at the time of the survey. Another 71.6% of participants revealed that they would accept the use of the technology. This shows that the technologies offer many opportunities for anyone willing to invest in them now and even in the future. Governments are also playing a pivotal role in encouraging their people to adopt the use of apps and other technologies to identify infections reliably.

The adoptions offer a great marketing window to introduce the technologies to subgroups where conventional tracing is inadequate, such as grocery store owners, public transport, social gathering, and event managers. Adoption is also encouraged among vulnerable individuals, like correctional facility workers, hospital staff, and long-term caregivers.

There is still an ongoing debate about whether adoption should be mandatory. Some countries, like Singapore and Italy, are already spearheading the compulsory implementation of the technologies. South Korea also requires all foreigners to install a COVID-19 contact tracing technology when in the country. In some areas, the apps are also used as a prerequisite for you to participate in public life fully, similar to wearing face masks, social distancing, and hand-washing. The fact that the technology benefits individuals and an entire community boosts the success of the tracing apps and influences the widespread adoption of these technologies. 

Our Take

The shift is here, and it’s not about to go anywhere. We still cannot tell when the pandemic will be behind us, and even after that, we will need these technologies to trace contacts, identify symptoms, and manage cases for this and other diseases. We should celebrate that the challenges surrounding the adoption of these technologies are mitigated by the power the technologies present health workers, contact traces, governments, and individuals. We are confident that as the adoption of these technologies increases, developers will incorporate additional features to preserve patient privacy and confidentiality. They will also adopt international best practices and abide by federal and industry laws to ensure both you and your patients are protected at all times. 

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