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L.A. County Launches Digital COVID-19 Contact Tracing to Reduce Notification Times

Image used for illustration only. | Courtesy photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

L.A. County and its partner, Healthvana, on Wednesday announced a feature that empowers patients to anonymously and immediately notify close contacts of a positive COVID-19 test result, using a mobile phone.

By reducing COVID-19 exposure notifications from days to hours, officials hope to further reduce community spread by encouraging close contacts to quickly quarantine and obtain a free test.

“This is a prime example of how to harness technology to help Angelenos immediately inform their contacts and help slow the spread of infection, especially as we see the rate of infections and hospitalizations rising in communities across the county,” said Dr. Clemens Hong, director of Whole Person Care with the Department of Health Services, which oversees the county’s testing sites. “By rapidly alerting people who may have been exposed to the virus so they can use that information to isolate themselves and protect their loved ones, we can make big strides in slowing progression and reducing the terrible impacts of COVID illness.”

Los Angeles County has partnered with Healthvana since April 2020, which already delivers test results for county-operated sites. Test result notifications are sent via text message or email the moment the lab processes the sample. With this added feature, individuals who receive a positive test result can easily click a link within the web-based patient portal to enter contact information for any recent close contacts.

These close contacts instantly receive a notification from Healthvana alerting them that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 with links to resources, including locations where they can schedule a free COVID-19 test.

“Patients are the most underutilized resource in healthcare and L.A. County is the first to empower their community to be part of the solution in this way to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Ramin Bastani, CEO of Healthvana. “Millions of test results later, we know people prefer to use their phones when it comes to COVID-19 – on average, patients access their results in less than 30 minutes. Now we have a chance to reduce exposure notifications from a few days to a few hours.”

The contact tracing feature will be initially rolled out to county-operated testing sites. There are currently over 180 total testing sites across the region which include county-operated sites, City of Los Angeles-operated sites, state-operated sites and locations run by community clinics, pharmacies, and various other testing partners. Healthvana has delivered over 750,000 COVID-19 test results to county-operated testing sites since late April. Los Angeles County was one of the first counties to deliver test results via Healthvana, which has been proven successful: 50% of individuals view test results in 10 mins or less; 75% view their test results in one hour or less; and 90% view their test results in four hours or less.

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