Written by: Compliance Blogger
This article seeks to inform healthcare professionals and the general public of the current contact tracing program created due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also contains information on the available contact tracer trainings provided by the Centers for Disease Control.
As this pandemic continues to make its way around our nation and closer into our local areas, the need for educated and trained individuals becomes essential. The Centers for Disease Control has free Contact Tracing Training available for healthcare professionals and the general public, so that they may be better equipped to serve in local and state health departments as contact tracers and case investigators.
AIHC recommends anyone supervising contact tracers to take all training modules and especially the last one: Target Audience- Public health professionals seeking to improve their knowledge. The American Institute has the link to access the CDC’s Contact Tracer main training page, featured on the Career Center, Jobs page- Click here to view this item.
Some of the course objectives found in this CDC funded training include:
- Define contact tracing
- Describe the important role that contact tracers have in protecting the public
- Identify criteria that determine whether someone is a potential contact
- Identify the key components of a successful contact tracing interview
- Apply principles of successful contact tracing interviews to a mock interview scenario
- Conduct contact tracing interviews with professionalism and sensitivity
Contact tracing was established to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease by finding and isolating cases. Contact tracing seeks to locate all contacts of a confirmed case, in order to test or monitor them for infection. Wikipedia defines Contact Tracing as “the process of identification of persons who may have come into contact with an infected person ("contacts") and subsequent collection of further information about these contacts.” Many people are finding new employment opportunities through the Contact Tracing program and enjoy the remote/ work from home aspect of the job.
Ethical and Legal Issues
Medical privacy and confidentiality issues can however pose as a difficult dilemma for contract tracing. The law recognizes the right infected individuals have to medical confidentiality, as described by HIPAA. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a law that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient information from being disclosed without the patient's consent or knowledge. Medical professionals are often considered mandated reporters, required to act to contain a communicable disease within a broader population and also ethically obliged to warn individuals of their exposure. HIPAA law guides such mandated reporters to typically disclose the minimum amount of information required to achieve the objectives of contact tracing. Specifically when an individual, for example, has been identified as being a ‘contact’ of a confirmed infected individual the contact tracer will only inform the contact that they have been exposed to a particular infection, but not informed of who was the source of the exposure.
Due to social pressures, discrimination, stigma, or for fear of the loss of confidentiality, some activists and health care providers have expressed concerns that contact tracing may discourage persons from seeking medical treatment. This has been of particular concern regarding contact tracing for HIV. Therefore, contact tracing must be highly focused on maintaining a balance between achieving ultimate contact tracing goals along with ensuring public trust and respect.
New and innovative approaches to contact tracing have emerged as well. Apple for instance, has recently developed a COVID-19 app available in the App store now. These new tools can assist to warn people that they had been in contact with a SARS-CoV-2 infected individual. India's COVID-19 tracking app, Aarogya Setu, became the world's fastest growing application, beating Pokémon Go with 50 million users in the first 13 days of its release.
The CDC has begun innovating as well, the Contact Tracer training program is fully available online. Below is an overview of the current CDC trainings:
Making Contact: A Training for COVID-19 Contact Tracers
Target audience – General public
Source – Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO)
Introductory online course for entry-level COVID-19 contact tracers, for use by health agencies in rapid training of new contact tracers. The training will be augmented by state/local specific training required to orient individuals to jurisdiction-specific protocols. This training focuses on building knowledge for remote contact tracing; a subsequent release will include a module on field services.
National COVID-19 Virtual Skills-Based Training for Case Investigation & Contact Tracing
Target audience – All participants must complete either the ASTHO or Johns Hopkins online knowledge-based course prior to being approved for this course.
Source – National Network of Disease Intervention Training Centers (NNDITC)
In the Case Investigation (CI) Virtual Skills-Based Training, participants will learn how to conduct a case investigation interview including determining the contact elicitation window, eliciting close contact information, providing recommendations and guidelines for isolation, and addressing common concerns persons with COVID-19 may experience during isolation. Foundational and enhanced interviewing skills will be reinforced and applied throughout the CI practice sessions. In the Contact Tracing (CT) Virtual Skills-Based Training, participants will learn how to conduct a contact tracing interview including notifying contacts of exposure, determining the quarantine period, providing information and recommendations for quarantine, and addressing common concerns exposed persons may experience during this time. Foundational and enhanced interviewing skills will be reinforced and applied throughout the CT practice sessions.
Other COVID-19 Contact Tracing Training
Target audience – General public
Source – John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
The COVID-19 crisis has created an unprecedented need for contact tracing across the country, requiring thousands of people to learn key skills quickly. The job qualifications for contact tracing positions differ throughout the country and the world, with some new positions open to individuals with a high school diploma or equivalent. In this introductory course, students will learn about the science of SARS-CoV-2 , including the infectious period, the clinical presentation of COVID-19, and the evidence for how SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted from person-to-person and why contact tracing can be such an effective public health intervention. Students will learn about how contact tracing is done, including how to build rapport with cases, identify their contacts, and support both cases and their contacts to stop transmission in their communities. The course will also cover several important ethical considerations around contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine. Finally, the course will identify some of the most common barriers to contact tracing efforts — along with strategies to overcome them.
Target audience – Public health professionals seeking to improve their knowledge
Source – Northwest Center for Public Health Practice
Contact tracing is an evidence-based way to slow the spread of infectious disease. It is the process of interviewing individuals who have been infected with a disease, identifying close contacts that they may have unknowingly exposed, and providing those contacts with the information needed to monitor their own health and prevent the continued spread of the illness. Learning effective contact tracing practices can help prevent further spread of COVID-19. This 90-minute online course developed by the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice in partnership with the Kansas Health Foundation will rapidly train public health workers in the subject of contact tracing. Within this module, you will learn more about what contact tracing is, why it is an effective tool to slow the spread of COVID-19, and how to practice contact tracing successfully. transmission in their communities. The course will also cover several important ethical considerations around contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine. Finally, the course will identify some of the most common barriers to contact tracing efforts — along with strategies to overcome them.