COVID-19 services automated, shift from quarantine orders to recommendations
October 28, 2021
MISSOULA - In an effort to more effectively meet the public health needs of the community, the Missoula City-County Health Department (MCCHD) is automating much of its COVID-19 response activities. This includes a shift from quarantine orders to recommendations for most close contacts. This will increase efficiency and allow for information to make its way more quickly to individuals who have been exposed to the virus. The Health Department is implementing these changes based on recommendations from community members and in response to the continuing case numbers due to the delta variant.
By the end of this week, MCCHD will text all patients their COVID-19 test results and will initiate case investigation and contact tracing by texting patients web forms to fill out. MCCHD has already been texting a small portion of its patients to test these systems. This move will speed up case investigation and contact tracing significantly.
“Among the individuals we tested this new technology with, 60% returned all of their information completely via the web form,” says Brian Chaszar, MCCHD deputy operations chief. “This is going to make a huge impact on our ability to get information out to people much more quickly.”
D’Shane Barnett, MCCHD health officer adds, “We have people in our community who want to be responsible and do the right thing, but it can be confusing to know what that is depending on their situation. This new approach supports our community members in taking steps to prevent the spread of this virus by tailoring instructions based on each individual’s responses on the form.”
All testing patients at Flynn Lane will be able to get their results via text message. COVID-19 positive patients tested through the Health Department* will get a text to a web form within 48 hours of taking their COVID-19 test. This web form gives patients instructions on how to properly isolate and more. If patients don’t fill out their web form within 24 hours of receiving it, they’ll get a phone call from a case investigator. Patients will also have the option while filling out their form to request a phone call from us. Patients will also be auto-enrolled in SARA-alert, the Health Department’s software that tracks patient’s symptoms while they are in isolation.
The Health Department’s goal is to text close contacts within 24 hours of receiving a positive patient’s fully filled out web form. Close contacts will be asked a series of questions in their web form and given an appropriate recommendation for quarantining based of their answers. The information collected from these secure HIPAA-compliant web forms will only be used for contact tracing and epidemiological purposes.
For those community members who do not have access to technology, or who prefer to complete the process with a staff member, that option will remain in place.
*The Health Department would like to note that our timelines to contact patients may vary for individuals tested at private clinics as the Health Department cannot guarantee how long it will take a private clinic to turn over positive results to us. Patients tested with at-home testing kits should report their results to the Health Department at http://www.misssoula.co/athometest