DCHHS, Parkland launch new COVID-19 automatic contact tracing system

Philip Huang, MD, MPH, Director of Dallas County Health & Human Services

Dallas County Health & Human Services Department (DCHHS) and Parkland Health & Hospital System will announce today the launch of a new COVID-19 Confidential Contact Tracing and Reporting System developed by Parkland and the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation (PCCI) to assist DCHHS in its efforts to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. The organizations demonstrated the new software and phone app during Dallas County’s COVID-19 press conference at 4 p.m. today.

“Contact tracing is a tried and true public health activity that DCHHS uses every day to help contain communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, sexually transmitted infections, HIV and others,” said Philip Huang, MD, MPH, Director, Dallas County Health & Human Services. “This system will enable us to scale these contact tracing activities to reach the large number of cases we are seeing with COVID-19 and use new technology to follow-up with members of the community who may have been exposed to COVID-19.”

The automated contact tracing system became operational as a pilot in Dallas County on Monday, June 22.

“Parkland developed the system to help DCHHS be as efficient and effective as possible by offering a solution to automate much of the contact tracers’ vital work,” said Brett Moran, MD, SVP, Associate Chief Medical Officer and Chief Medical Information Officer at Parkland. “We all need to work together to slow the spread of COVID-19. Contact tracing people with COVID-19 and their close contacts is critical to help slow the transmission of COVID-19 in our community and to help protect those we care about from getting this disease.”

The digital communications tool delivers messages via email or text to those identified as COVID-19 positive, asking them to provide contact information for people they have been in close contact with during the previous 14 days. The system can then send daily text messages to each of those individuals for 14 days asking them to report any COVID-19 symptoms they might develop. Dallas County contact tracers can then focus their efforts on direct follow-up as needed to assist each person with vital healthcare information about COVID-19. If someone who is being monitored develops symptoms, they can be sent for COVID testing and care. All digital messages are sent and can be displayed in either English or Spanish.

For people who do not use text or email, DCHHS will continue to use traditional phone and in-person contact tracing methods.

“This is a significant next step in the proactive management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Technology is a critical enabler and we are excited to be able to use the infrastructure and analytics already created for the real-time hot-spotting and geo-mapping algorithms to accelerate the deployment of contact tracing. Together with our partners, we are able to provide and maintain the highest levels of data security to protect individual privacy and confidentiality,” said Steve Miff, PhD, CEO, Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation.

DCHHS and healthcare partners like Parkland are working hard to slow the spread of the novel

coronavirus. If you have been exposed to COVID-19, Dallas County contact tracers will call you to notify you. You should self-quarantine at home and follow instructions. Choosing to help in the fight against COVID-19 keeps you, your family, and your community safe and will help slow the spread in Dallas County.

For more information, call DCHHS at 214-819-2000 or visit https://www.dallascounty.org/departments/dchhs/2019-novel-coronavirus.php. For more information about Parkland Health & Hospital System, visit www.parklandhospital.com.

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