Digital Contact Tracing: Keep It Simple

“Engagement,” according to Dr. Clemens Hong, who oversees all of Los Angeles County’s COVID testing sites, is the most critical piece to any contact tracing strategy. 

In software design, we know that with each additional step comes with a drop off in usage. This is why Healthvana’s exposure notification tool starts on the same page a patient learns about their result. 

Healthvana delivers positive test results from labs the moment there is a result, and on average, patients view their status within 30 mins on their phones.  If positive, they can enter a phone number/email and their “close contacts” will be anonymously and instantly notified – giving options for free testing and resources.  Those “close contacts” view those notifications in minutes, taking contact tracing from days to minutes.  

And with ease of use comes increased contact tracing engagement and slowing the spread.  Virginia’s Covidwise was the nation’s first state created exposure notification app; since its inception in August just 488 people have used the bluetooth based tool to send alerts about a positive diagnosis. Citizen’s SafePass, a private, nationwide digital contact tracing app saw 1.1 million downloads in November with only 130 positive cases reported and 200 exposure notifications sent. 

However, in Los Angeles County alone, in the first four weeks of Healthvana’s digital contact tracing program, more than 3,000 people were notified of an exposure within hours from when the original positive test result was recorded. The vast majority of those 3,000 individuals opened the exposure notification within five minutes. 50% of the close contacts who received a notification clicked on a link to access a COVID test. 

Bluetooth based digital contact tracing tools are great because they allow people who do not directly know each other to get notified of a potential exposure, but they are not perfect. They require people to self report their positive test result so others may be notified. This process is not instant, often requires a call to or from a public health department to confirm your status, and an additional 1-2 days before your results are entered into the state’s system and put to use (as in the case with CA Notify). 

A problem as large and complex as COVID requires numerous solutions, and immediate exposure notifications to close contacts are just one more tool in the toolkit to support traditional contact tracing and slow the spread.

Less Patient Phone Tag

Healthcare providers know that patients prefer to be contacted on their cell phones, but don’t want to make or receive phone calls when a text message would suffice. 

Since 2015, Healthvana has worked with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) to digitize communication with their patients using smartphones to improve both the patient and their experience. 

Exciting Outcomes: 

  1. 95% of patients reporting satisfaction on a voluntary survey 
  2. Patients return 2 days faster for treatment
  3. Dramatically less phone call volume for clinic staff so they can focus on making patients healthier 

A big part of the success is due to Two-Way HIPAA-Compliant Messaging (Messaging). Messaging is just like texting, but in an encrypted, secure manner that allows staff and patients to communicate more easily and efficiently about their health problems with healthcare staff. 

How effective is Messaging?

“It’s a 9 out of 10. I use Messaging to avoid phone tag. It gives me more time to focus on other important matters.” — Bea Dorsey, office administrator for AHF in Broward County.

“Messaging saves us a lot of time. My staff are able to provide more detail in the messages instead of patients needing to call back with questions.” — Ruben De Lara, program manager for AHF in Los Angeles.

Fact: 91% of messages sent by patients through their Healthvana account are on their mobile phone. This means patients get care faster and stay in longer. 

Top 5 Benefits of Messaging

  1. Reduce phone calls: Rather than have missed calls, voicemails or the dreaded phone tag, staff get an alert when there’s a new patient message in their inbox that they can respond to in real-time or at their earliest convenience (e.g., between appointments). We know from experience that patients view and respond to our messages on average within 30 minutes. 
  2. Automatic Reminders: Staff are able to program recurring messages to be sent to patients which reduces staff workload and helps patients stick to their care plan (e.g., come back into the clinic for scheduled testing).
  3. Hard to reach patients: Some patients just never pick up a phone, especially the number is not a personal contact. In these cases, Messaging has proven invaluable for staff to connect with them.
  4. Bulk Messaging: Staff are also able to message all, or a select group of, patients (e.g., new office hours, free testing services). 
  5. Patient Satisfaction: Patients have the ability to send messages 24/7 including messages with positive feedback for staff. Patients feel closer to their staff which results in better adherence to care plans. 

Great patient care begins with communication. In order to provide the best patient care, providers know they must reach patients where they are- on their phones. 

How can clinics succeed with PrEP?

Healthvana’s digital tools make it easier for clinics to identify, educate and keep patients on PrEP. 

Say goodbye to spreadsheets and hello to software specifically made for PrEP

PrEP is one of the most important HIV prevention tools we have today; a once-a-day pill that virtually eliminates the risk of getting HIV if taken correctly. Clinics prescribing PrEP can stop many people from getting HIV but barriers exist to getting patients on PrEP and achieving consistent patient adherence. 

  1. EMRs & their patient portals can’t help: They were not built to support clinic staff managing patients on PrEP which requires constant and compassionate patient engagement. Instead, staff rely on inadequate, labor and time intensive tools like computer spreadsheets to log who is on PrEP and the telephone to try to stay in-touch with patients about everything from labs, refills, insurance, and appointments to keep them compliant with PrEP.
  2. Not enough education about PrEP: Many patients are still unaware of PrEP. And a large number of staff have not yet learned how to initiate speaking about PrEP and its benefits.

We need to address these barriers. Today, too many eligible patients are not starting PrEP and many patients who have started PrEP abandon treatment. Thankfully, there are now interventions to help deliver more effective PrEP care and ensure patients get on and stay on PrEP.

Healthvana’s easy-to-use, evidence-based digital tools supporting staff on all things PrEP. Since 2015, Healthvana has been a leader in sexual health helping millions of patients across the country. Healthvana facilitates the communication between staff and their patients. Through Healthvana, providers can inform and interact with their patients at each step of treatment, plus patients can access Healthvana directly on their mobile phone to make better health decisions. 

Patients who use Healthvana return for STD treatment 2 days faster (American Journal of Public Health).

For PrEP care, Healthvana helps clinic staff:

  1. Kickstart the conversation with new patients about PrEP through digitized & customized patient intake forms
  2. Educate patients about PrEP and get them back into the clinic for quarterly testing (a prerequisite to refill on PrEP) by sending automated reminders
  3. Streamline how to manage patients on PrEP through a clinic dashboard
  4. Make it easier to communicate with patients outside the clinic through HIPAA-compliant text-based messages. Quick note: See how messaging has made a positive impact on patient care for one of our customers
  5. Reduce incoming and outgoing phone calls by delivering interpreted lab results with next steps to patients to access on their mobile phone

Final Thoughts: 

The Healthvana team cares deeply about reducing HIV transmission and our software is one piece in the HIV prevention fight. 

The best way to learn more about Healthvana is to see a demo. Please email to set one up.