A new wearable Australian invention is supporting residential aged care providers to speed up contact tracing to identify if staff, residents or visitors have come into contact with a COVID-positive person.

Contact Harald is a Bluetooth-enabled card-to-card contact tracing system designed to help identify close contacts in at-risk workplaces including aged care facilities.

Staff and residents wear a card on a lanyard, or residents can place the card on their side table or hang it above their bed and the system starts tracing after two minutes of two cards being within 1.5 metres of each other.

The technology was developed by Safedome, fast-tracked to market with the help of RMIT-Cisco’s Health Transformation Lab, and is now in use at several aged care facilities in New South Wales and Victoria. 

The Contact Harald card on a lanyard

Pathways Residences’ 121-bed home in Sailors Bay, North Sydney, was the first aged care facility to start using Contact Harald.

In addition to contact tracing and visitor check-ins, the facility is using the system to record information related to influenza vaccinations, COVID-19 symptom declarations and travel to or from coronavirus hotspots.

Pathways Residences managing director Graeme Skerritt said the system was a non-intrusive way to identify if someone had come into contact with a COVID-positive person.

“As we move through this pandemic we want to ensure our residents, their families and our staff are safe,” Mr Skerritt said.

Following the success of the trial, Pathways Residences is now rolling out the system to its other four aged care facilities.

A ‘source of truth’

Safedome director of health and product Elissa Reid said the card-based wearable acted as a digital visitor logbook for anyone entering a facility.

Elissa Reid

“It is the source of truth in terms of who was where and when on contact tracing, rather than relying on recall and memory and trying to merge paper-based datasets,” Ms Reid tells Australian Ageing Agenda.

“If it doesn’t stop the spread, it slows the spread.”

The device stores number sequences to identify different cards and does not record any personally identifying information, Ms Reid said.

“If a staff member or a visitor declared symptoms of or a positive result to COVID-19, an appointed system administrator would then go into… Contact Harald… and the system brings up all of the recorded close contacts that person has had for the previous 20 days,” Ms Reid said.

The close contacts will receive an SMS or email to notify them of the potential or confirmed COVID-19 case, she said.

Ms Reid said the system removed time-consuming elements of contact tracing.

“The current or the traditional method of contact tracing is a paper-based and time-consuming effort that typically took the most qualified person off the floor,” she said.

It keeps the most qualified staff doing their day job rather than stuck in the back office doing administration, Ms Reid said.

Syste pinpoints staff who needs testing

Not-for-profit aged care provider Havilah in central Victoria is another early adopter of the technology at its 100-bed and 30-bed facilities in Maryborough.

Havilah CEO Barb Duffin said they had been searching for a less time-consuming system for contact tracing.

“Should we need to perform a trace, Contact Harald will allow us to pinpoint those staff who need to be tested, go home and isolate, so those not compromised can remain to offer the best quality care for our residents,” Ms Duffin said.

“We hope we may never need to use Contact Harald, but it’s great to know we will have it on hand if it’s needed.”

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