Medica, a non-profit health plan, has partnered with the Minnesota Department of Health to conduct contact tracing for the state.
“As the number of cases continue to grow, it’s important that the response to the coronavirus involves a community-wide effort,” said John Piatkowski, MD, medical director at Medica. “I am proud of our team for recognizing the unique role they can play in helping our fellow Minnesotans curb the spread, and begin a return to normal lives and economic stability.”
Over 200,000 Minnesotans have been tested for coronavirus, resulting in more than 20,000 positive cases, according to the Minnesota Department of Health as of May 25. Almost 900 Minnesotans (881) have died from coronavirus, 717 of whom lived in long-term care or assisted living facilities.
Medica is allowing some of its employees to engage with those who have tested positive for coronavirus.
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Medica employees who will be assisting in the contact tracing efforts took an online training program to prepare for the role.
The employees will commit three days of their work week to call confirmed coronavirus patients. The calls last around 45 minutes and attempt to distinguish any acquaintances or family members who may have been exposed to coronavirus through the patient.
Employees initiated their public health efforts on May 26 and Medica plans to continue participating in contact tracing for three weeks.
Apart from Medica employees, Minnesota’s health department has enlisted up to 400 Department of Health and county workers for the job, local news outlets reported, and they expect to need anywhere from 1,000 to 4,200 total for successful, widespread tracing. Technological and logistical barriers have held back the state’s progress, Minnesota Public Radio found.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) led the way in committing some of its employees to assist in contact tracing efforts.
As the first health payer to make such a decision in Minnesota, the company dedicated over 140 Blue Cross employees to the public health undertaking. The Blue Cross employees began volunteering the week of May 19.
“Our hope in this crisis is to offer stability and support for our communities and our state however we can,” said Craig Samitt, MD, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “I’m proud of how quickly our people have rallied to help staff this key public health effort that will help our communities fight against and recover from COVID-19.”
The Blue Cross employees are volunteering for at least two weeks, three to four days a week. Each shift is six hours long and, ideally, results in five contact tracing calls per shift.
Minnesota is not the only state to partner with private healthcare payers to meet contact tracing goals.
In Massachusetts, the state’s Blue Cross Blue Shield company committed more than 100 employees to contact tracing.
However, contact tracing is a fraught subject.
Apple and Google proposed a smartphone app which would allow individuals to anonymously report if they have been in contact with someone who has been a confirmed case of coronavirus as well as their own coronavirus diagnosis.
However, consumers have little trust in corporations preserving their anonymity.
Over half of consumers would not trust health insurance companies to keep their identity hidden if they used an app such as the one that Apple and Google suggested, a recent Washington Post and University of Maryland survey found.
Respondents did not trust technology companies either. Instead, they were more likely to entrust their identity to public health organizations and universities.
States appear more open to using corporate solutions as they struggle to manage the contact tracing workload. Three states—Alabama, North Dakota, and South Carolina—have already thrown their support behind the Apple and Google contact tracing technology.
Payers may be receiving mixed messages from the public and the states on whether to get involved in contact tracing efforts.
Source: HealthPayer Intelligence