During the initial COVID-19 pandemic surge, Harris County, Texas, the third largest county in the U.S., was recording upwards of 1,800 new positive cases per day. Critical to the effort by the Harris County Public Health department to protect the county’s citizens was the ability to rapidly conduct:
- Case investigations – the process of helping patients with suspected or confirmed infection recall everyone with whom they recently had close contact
- Contact tracing – the process of warning people who came in close contact with an infected individual of the potential exposure to the virus
At the time, the department was relying on traditional mail and manual dialing to communicate with residents. “We were short of the percentage of contacts we needed to reach as part of an effective containment strategy, and we knew time wasn’t on our side,” explained Scott Jeansonne, Compliance & Environmental Programs Manager at Harris County Public Health.
As it did for many other governmental organizations, Avaya reached out to see how it could help. The team suggested that the Harris County Public Health department take advantage of the Avaya OneCloud Communication Platform-as-a-Service (CPaaS) to create a verified, HIPAA-compliant, cloud-based notification solution as part of the county’s case investigation and contact tracing program.
“We had some strategy sessions with the Avaya team, put together a solution, and fast tracked it within a matter of days,” said Jeansonne. “Avaya’s solution has taken our operations to a level we never knew was possible – and it’s saving lives. Our Contact Tracers and Case Investigators are working 12 hours a day, committing themselves to stopping this virus in its tracks. The outbound notification system has provided them with great relief and is allowing us to help as many people as possible.”
Avaya OneCloud CPaaS has enabled Harris County Public Health to apply automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to patient and contact identification and communications. Contacts on the daily list of positive cases began receiving automated outbound voice calls from the health department with options to communicate in both English and Spanish. If the person answered, they would be immediately connected with a Case Investigator. If they didn’t answer, the public health department would follow up with an automated outbound SMS notification the next day.
For those who came in close contact with an infected person, the county would first send an automated SMS notification and then follow up with an automated outbound voice call. The message read, “Please contact Harris County Public Health for an important message regarding COVID-19,” including the number to the county’s verified COVID-19 hotline.
With Avaya, the county can validate if a phone number is a mobile number before any messages are sent. If it’s not a mobile number, the department can divert to an outbound voice call with a prerecorded message in English and Spanish. HIPAA compliancy ensures the county meets all requirements for protecting health information.
The Avaya OneCloud CPaaS solution also supports end-to-end engagement over the course of the virus, from checking in with contacts regarding symptoms, to referrals for testing and clinical services, to assessing a resident’s ability to self-quarantine. For example, an automated SMS notification can be sent to an infected person asking them how they are feeling that day or if they are experiencing any new symptoms. Surveys and auto-forms can also be pushed out to capture important information that can be fed back to workers, increasing their productivity and providing immediate access to more patient information to enable better overall care.
Overall, the Avaya OneCloud CPaaS-powered solution had an immediate impact on Harris County’s COVID-19 containment levels, increasing the number of cases the department was able to investigate by nearly 25%.
For Harris County, one of the most important factors in working with Avaya was the ability of the vendor to provide excellent customer service when the county needed it most. Explained Alexey Gruber, Logistics Deputy Chief of Harris County, “Avaya had our best interests in mind from the start when they proactively reached out to ask us how we were doing during the crisis and suggested how we could make use of the CPaaS solution. From there on out, they have been responsive and quick to meet our needs. The entire team was devoted not only to resolving issues but to identifying ways to improve so that we could increase efficiencies. Many times, the team would find ways to eliminate three or four steps that would otherwise be required.”
Because Avaya OneCloud CPaaS is simple to set up, easy to use, and can be turned on or off as needed while paying only for the services used, the Public Health department has taken advantage of the solution during other events, such as Hurricane Laura when Harris County faced evacuation orders. And based on the success the health department had with the solution, the Harris County Tax Office set up a separate instance of Avaya OneCloud CPaaS to increase voter registration ahead of the 2020 presidential election, so it could proactively engage with residents about their registration status, where to vote, how to register, and more.
For more information on Avaya OneCloud CPaaS please visit Avaya.