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By: NIC  |  August 11, 2020

Technology Boosts Contact Tracing Efforts in Senior Living Communities

COVID-19  |  Seniors Housing

Contact tracing has emerged as a first-line defense at senior living communities in the fight against the pandemic. Knowing who has tested positive for COVID-19 and being able to identify their contacts has helped to keep community outbreaks in check.

While many providers rely on manual systems to conduct contact tracing, new technologies show promise to assist in the process to ensure resident and staff safety.

Take, for example, Kisco Senior Living. The Carlsbad, California-based company installed Accushield touchscreen kiosks at its 20 properties. Everyone entering the buildings—employees, outside providers, and visitors—are screened at the kiosks daily.

Individuals sign in at the kiosk which records the time, date, and, if applicable, who they’re seeing. The individual answers a series of screening questions about their current health condition. The questions can be customized to better identify those who might be at high risk for exposure to the virus. An immediate alert is generated if the individual has tested positive in the last 30 days.

Temperatures are checked manually at the kiosk, though an automated infrared temperature scanner is now being rolled out to expedite the process. Individuals who pass the screening receive a photo badge to wear while on site, an assurance for residents that the individual is authorized to be in the building. Individuals sign out at the kiosk when they leave the building.

Executive directors can log on to a dashboard to monitor data collected at the kiosk. If a home health agency, for example, calls to say an employee of theirs tested positive, Kisco can quickly access the records to determine which residents might have been exposed.

Of course, successful contact tracing relies on the ability to test those at risk. Kisco conducts surveillance testing depending on local mandates and whether the positivity rate in the county is 5% or higher. “We are data driven,” said Ed Ward, vice president of operations at Kisco.

Twenty-five percent of employees and outside providers are tested every two weeks. Residents are tested free of charge if they ask for a test. If a positive test is found, 100% of employees are tested every two weeks until two testing cycles show no positive cases.

“The Accushield system has proved to be exceptionally helpful with contact tracing,” said Ward. “Families and residents have a higher level of security and peace of mind.” He added that the company has initiated a campaign—Kisco Confidence—focused on the wellbeing, safety and security of all residents and associates.

Screening Advances

For years, senior living providers have mostly relied on manual sign-in logs to monitor who is in a building. But using these logs to conduct contact tracing can prove difficult, building operators say. Hand-written logs can be hard to read or may be incomplete. Interviews with staff and residents to recall their contacts may not produce an accurate report.

CarePredict launched an automated contact tracing product March 31 called PinPoint. It is an add on to the company’s monitoring solution that uses wearables and beacon technology to chart resident activity.

The PinPoint product allows facility staff to quickly identify all residents, staff, and visitors exposed to a suspected virus carrier. A report provides a breakdown of contacts, location and duration of contact.

“It’s a tool to break the chain of spread,” said Jerry Wilmink, chief business officer of CarePredict, which has offices in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Menlo Park, California.  

Contacts are classified by risk, so the staff can test and isolate those who pose the most significant threat. Another advantage, according to Wilmink, is that the Pinpoint solution reveals which individuals have not been exposed so they don’t have to be isolated. “They can get their life back,” he said.

CarePredict is being used at more than 20 communities, said Wilmink. Inquiries from Arizona, Texas and Florida have increased recently because of the uptick in COVID-19 cases there.

Costs of automated visitor management and contact tracing systems typically include installation and monthly subscription fees.

Many operators use a combination of approaches to trace cases. Montgomery Place, a life plan community in Chicago, has an automated check-in system for employees, visitors and outside service providers. The check-in system was enhanced in the wake of the pandemic with health questions and temperature screens.

COVID-19 cases are tracked manually. But the information is entered into the community data base system to generate email and cell phone alerts for the staff, residents and family members. “We know automated tracing technology is out there,” said Deborah Hart, executive director at Montgomery Place. “But I’m not going ‘Big Brother’ and putting chips on people. I’m not there yet.”  

With different tools available, communities are sorting through the options. “We are debating automated contact tracing,” said Nancy Kao, executive director at The Forum at Rancho San Antonio, Cupertino, California. LCS is the management company. Contact tracing is currently done manually.

The life plan community is undergoing a $100 million repositioning that incorporates a lot of technology. The new memory care building, for example, includes a GPS tracking system for residents.

Kao chairs the Innovation Council at LCS, which manages about 140 senior living properties. The Council evaluates different products and recommends best practices.

“Communities are reaching out for more guidance on technology because of COVID-19,” said Kao. “Every community is in a different place on the adoption of technology.”

About NIC

The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to support access and choice for America’s seniors by providing data, analytics, and connections that bring together investors and providers.

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