Healthcare Workers Are Becoming Infected with COVID-19
COVID-19 infections of medical staff pose a major concern for hospitals. Healthcare workers caring for patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection face an increased risk for exposure to the virus. It is imperative to be able to identify any staff members who have been exposed to an infected individual. They need to be able to efficiently and effectively trace staff members’ contacts including with other team members in order to control and reduce the risk of additional infections.
In April, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) based in Geneva, suggested that over 90,000 health workers are infected with COVID-19 worldwide. At the same time, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its own tally citing data positing that healthcare personnel (HCP) account for about 11% of COVID-19 infections. While we still don’t know the true number of workers confirmed to be infected, with over 2.1M confirmed cases in the U.S. to date, the CDC data suggests that the number of infected HCP could be more than 200K. In order to control and reduce the risk of additional infections, it is clear that hospitals need to identify any staff members who have been exposed to the virus and trace their contacts including with other team members.
What is Contact Tracing?
Contact tracing is a process involving tracking down everyone who has had close contact with someone who is infected with a virus. Those people can then be tested and/or isolated. This allows you to identify and isolate potential carriers of the virus even if they are asymptomatic or presymptomatic. For diseases that produce a high number of asymptomatic carriers such as COVID-19, contact tracing is an essential way to help slow the spread of the virus.
The challenge with contact tracing, however, is that in most cases, contact tracing at the hospital is performed manually. Patient medical records may be used to identify which staff members treated an individual during their hospitalization. However, this doesn’t fully take into account all contacts that have been made across the hospital. There are random encounters that will not show up in a medical record or staff management system – for example staying in the same waiting room, meeting in a hallway or riding together in an elevator.
When staff members are identified as Covid-19 positive, they are interviewed and asked to recall their whereabouts and known contacts with other staff members. Once identified from interviews, other staff who were in contact with the infected individual are also interviewed. These interviews do not produce highly reliable accounts of where an infected staff member actually has been or with whom they might have been in contact with.
How Hospitals & Critical Care Organizations Can Address This Challenge
Today, the technology exists to go beyond the manual processes, complementing and extending them to identify potential close contacts that were not identified during the manual investigation. Tools that can process the location information of potentially exposed medical staff and trace their whereabouts within the hospital over time, can provide additional detail about staff activities and contacts that may be difficult to accurately recall during the interview process.
It is possible, though, to collect and identify connections and activities of staff member devices (smart badges, smart phones, etc.) in the network – including their locations at given points in time based on data obtained from the hospital’s wireless access points (AP). This information can then be used, not only to identify where the infected individual was at any point in time, but also can be correlated with similar information for other staff members in proximity at the same time.
Fast Effective Contact Tracing Via the Network
With Armis, healthcare facilities can process the location information of potentially exposed medical staff and trace their whereabouts within the hospital faster. We do this by tracking the devices of the staff members – most notably devices like Vocera badges widely used in hospitals today.
Without installing hardware or an agent on devices, Armis can passively collect and identify connections and activities of the devices on the network – including their locations at given points in time based on data obtained from the network’s access points (AP). Hospital safety personnel can then query the data and view historical location information for staff members who may have been exposed to Covid-19. Using this information, Armis can provide you with essential data relevant to your contact tracing efforts.
To learn more about our COVID-19 Contact Tracing, download this Solution Brief.
If you would like to request a demo of how we do this, just click here.
For more information on how Armis secures medical devices, please click here.
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*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Armis authored by Christopher Dobrec. Read the original post at: https://www.armis.com/resources/iot-security-blog/covid-19-contact-tracing-for-healthcare-workers/