Contact tracing with a real-time location system: A case study of increasing relative effectiveness in an emergency department

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Abstract

Background:

Contact tracing is the systematic method of identifying individuals potentially exposed to infectious diseases. Electronic medical record (EMR) use for contact tracing is time-consuming and may miss exposed individuals. Real-time location systems (RTLSs) may improve contact identification. Therefore, the relative effectiveness of these 2 contact tracing methodologies were evaluated.

Methods:

During a pertussis outbreak in the United States, a retrospective case study was conducted between June 14 and August 31, 2016, to identify the contacts of confirmed pertussis cases, using EMR and RTLS data in the emergency department of a tertiary care medical center. Descriptive statistics and a paired t test (α = 0.05) were performed to compare contacts identified by EMR versus RTLS, as was correlation between pertussis patient length of stay and the number of potential contacts.

Results:

Nine cases of pertussis presented to the emergency department during the identified time period. RTLS doubled the potential exposure list (P < .01). Length of stay had significant positive correlation with contacts identified by RTLS (ρ = 0.79; P = .01) but not with EMR (ρ = 0.43; P = .25).

Conclusions:

RTLS doubled the potential pertussis exposures beyond EMR-based contact identification. Thus, RTLS may be a valuable addition to the practice of contact tracing and infectious disease monitoring.

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