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4 min read

Nick Wong: Contact tracing

Nick Wong: Contact tracing

How the Paubox Email API Can Help Fight the Pandemic


Nick Wong: This was the recent legislation passed by the White House, the American rescue plan, the $1.9 trillion relief package, a lot, about almost $58 billion on just testing, contact tracing, and mitigation efforts for COVID-19. 

So clearly, contact tracing is a considerable component of our fight out of this kind of the last leg or so of the pandemic. And I’ll quickly explain the contact tracing process, its objectives, and how things are kind of currently tracked manually and can be improved. So the objective for contact tracing is basically to work with an infected individual to identify and provide support, not only them but also potentially their infected contacts. 

The reason we do this is to prevent or mitigate the community spread of COVID-19 in our community. And the process first starts off with a confirmed case of COVID-19. The local department of health is notified, and then they immediately act to interview the infected individual, the health department will console the individual into isolation and will begin to notify any close contacts that the infected individual has had. And for the purposes of our presentation, the definition of close contact is someone who was within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. 

And lastly, over the next 14 days or so, these contact tracers will follow up with the infected individual as well as their contacts via phone and email. So in this example and in this process, there is kind of three main stakeholders that we’ll be following with today. So first is the clinic. This is the place where you know; you go to you, the person receiving the test will go to get the needle, swap the PCR test, the whole jazz that I’m sure we are all kind of familiar with. Now, on. The second here is the laboratories that actually taken these results and process these results. And lastly, the local health department. They’re the folks providing the contact tracing. They are the folks that are updating, you know, the local dashboards and taking data analysis on the spread of COVID-19 in the community. 

So as you can see, this is all a really big multifaceted system that ultimately relies on speed and efficiency of scarce resources in order to truly be effective as a means to mitigate COVID-19; the Lancet peer-reviewed medical journal actually found that contact tracing strategies are only truly effective if they can be done in less than three days. What that means is we have to beat the speed of the reproduction of COVID-19 to other infected contacts and really act fast. 

But the reality, you know, across the United States, from states like Hawaii to Austin, Texas, and even to New York, we see headlines in the news like these bottlenecks. And on top of all of this kind of bottlenecks and inefficiencies. An article co-authored by the University of Oxford found that for every infected individual that we contact trace, there is an average of 36 other contacts. So it’s incredibly, incredibly difficult to pull this whole contact tracing process off at scale with the current technology, i.e., fax machines that we have today. 

So this means that in traditional communication and healthcare, really the fax machine is simply too slow to support effective contact tracing efforts. And this takes a public health tool. So now the question really becomes how can we create and implement these efficient and secure systems that can both not only scale but also ultimately protect the health as well as the privacy of those in our community. 

And the common denominator here is that whether we’re automating snow sending follow-up emails from contact tracers, or reading and storing test result data from electronic health records, or processing test results, test results and sending them to the local health department. Pol box is email API can really be the foundation or a cornerstone that kind of wraps around and has supports any modern public health application.

So lastly, to really dive into the kind of seeing how this will affect each stakeholder in this process, we’re really going to try to, you know, ultimately save lives through this Added efficiency. This all really boils down to leveraging the power of modern technologies, specifically email, and its scalability and efficiency to save lives. 

So the goal is to maintain a high level of efficacy or effectiveness of contact tracing at scale. So for the clinic, and this is for not only the clinic, but also the patient that we’re kind of familiar with is finding access to your messages without any extra friction or any added steps, no complicated portals, you have to log in fiddle with your phone to try to access a message, and ultimately also a lower learning curve for those working out the clinic that needs to send out these emails. 

For those that work at laboratories, you know, increased efficiency in over the old archaic fax machine, we can scale these sending large amounts of messages faster, without compromising any speed will be able to integrate seamlessly into existing business logic or test result delivery logic. 

Or simply, the email API is simply a little bit of the little set of methods in your code that can ultimately scale and send messages securely at scale. And for the local health department. We’re increasing efficiency of those contact tracing, we’re automating what can be automated and supporting the limited number of contact tracers. And as we’ve talked about this whole time, you know, we’re maintaining effectiveness, the contact tracing programs, even at scale, even when there’s a lot of COVID-19 going on.

Watch every minute of this session here.

Learn more about Paubox Spring Summit, Secure Communication During a Pandemic.

Read a full recap of Paubox Spring Summit.

About Nick Wong Wong is a software engineer and email API specialist at Paubox. He recently spoke at Paubox SECURE, Paubox’s digital health security conference, in October. Wong shared about the endless possibilities that Paubox Email API grants developers to keep their email communication secure and safe from unauthorized users.

About Dan Dorszynski Dorszynski has been working as a software developer for the web before Facebook, Twitter, and Google were even ideas. He has spent the last 20 years as an independent web developer before joining Paubox as a software engineer.

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