Geoangel Long Term Care
Contact Tracing Simplified
A final solution
By Karen Stockdale, MB, BSN, RN
Controlling the spread of infectious diseases among our vulnerable populations has never been more important
Have you ever tried to trace how many people you had contact with during a busy day? And then trace all the people that person came into contact with? It is a game that will literally make your head spin. However, it is a practice that helps pinpoint the spread of infectious diseases, isolate carriers, and narrow down who needs testing. Contact tracing was used extensively during the COVID-19 pandemic – both in healthcare facilities and by public health departments. The problem is the sheer magnitude of the task! Small interactions – brushing against someone in a hallway, sharing a bench, pushing a wheelchair– all of those count. Can you remember each one, each day? Geoangel can.
Geoangel Wander Management & Nurse Call Services is a great example of how technology can improve lives in unexpected ways. The system is most often used in residential care settings, nursing homes, memory care units, and similar facilities. The smartwatch-like wristband effectively tracks each patient, allowing nursing staff to monitor everyone via tablet. Each resident has pre-programmed “safe zones”, increasing their safety, reducing falls, and helping staff work more efficiently. The system has a very important secondary function – contact tracing! Imagine if – instead of relying on memories to track steps and interactions – you could print off a report? Saving precious time, and reducing the spread is what that report means.
Throughout COVID, we all waited with bated breath as we watched those first cases emerge in a nursing home and realized the horror that can unfold with our most vulnerable population. Employees were scared –for the residents, for themselves, and their families. The stark truth was that if one case emerged in a facility, the entire patient population ended up confined to their rooms on isolation, and the whole facility waited. Who was next? Do I already have it? Do I have a fever?
With Geoangel, an outbreak can be more effectively managed and contained, potentially without loss of freedom for every resident, and with peace of mind for employees. Maintaining the independence and normal routine as much as possible for residents is very important for physical, social, and emotional health The CDC states that contact tracing, specific to COVID-19, helps protect us by letting people know they have been exposed and allowing them to begin monitoring and isolating as necessary. It also helps people get tested earlier, and prioritizes that testing.
A lot of the spread that happened in nursing homes with Covid-19 was inadvertently brought in by staff. With Geoangel in place, that initial case can be traced and isolated, with their direct and indirect contacts monitored. Staff who are at risk can be isolated until negative, rather than coming back to work and potentially increasing the spread. That staff person’s close family and contacts can also get tested – preventing spread in the outside community.
Other Uses for Contact Tracing
Although the public hasn’t been quite as aware of it, contact tracing has been used for a long time to track infectious diseases. Nursing homes have always been high-risk environments for transmission of MRSA, C-Diff, Noroviruses, and Influenza, among others. The disabled and aged are particularly at risk for long-term effects and mortality from these illnesses, as they usually already have some sort of compromised immunity or chronic illness. Facilities with high infection rates are not only risky places for the elderly to be, but they are at risk for loss of accreditation from CMS, TJC, or others. A proactive approach to contain, treat, and prevent the spread of infection is not a luxury anymore, it is a necessity. A system like Geoangel truly protects loved ones, staff, and facilities from harm and provides important tools for tackling core issues like infection transmission.
CMS and each state issue guidance for long-term care facilities to conduct contact tracing. One example from the state of Pennsylvania, which is like many others, involves a 15-step process, with many sub-steps, a paper log sheet, and suggests using an Excel sheet as well. Geoangel reduces the number of steps required by staff to trace residents, and greatly increases the accuracy. With standardized reports, analysis of how close residents were to each other, and information about times of contact that can be compared to onset of symptoms – Geoangel facilities are armed to do battle.
This contact tracing information also provides valuable guidance to concentrate efforts in the right way. Housekeeping staff can cover the areas and surfaces that are highest risk for transmission quickly, and before they tackle less-risky areas. Nursing staff can isolate affected residents, initiate testing, and notify families quickly, preventing further spread. Staff can leave knowing if they had a probable contact and make decisions about exposing family members and take steps to get tested.
A real solution
Geoangel facilities reap the benefits of the wander management and nurse call systems every day. However, when infectious disease hits, along with anxiety – the hidden value of the system gets to work.
No added training, no added systems, just peace of mind – and it has simply been there all along.