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Digital Tools in Support of Contact Tracing for COVID-19

Last updated June 4, 2020


Project Overview

At this stage (May 2020) of the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic, rapid contact tracing and notification of those exposed to infected persons is critically important to stopping further spread of the disease. Several digital tools have now been developed—some by established information technology (IT) companies, others by small, entrepreneurial organizations—to support various parts of the contact tracing process. Unfortunately, to date there has been no national-level opportunity for local and state health officials to collaboratively assess these tools, and consider whether and how they might best support contact tracing.

To provide a platform for this critically-needed deliberation, PHII is now convening and managing a forum to help inform and coordinate the use and further development of digital tools in support of contact tracing. Given the urgency of the need for guidance, this project will be carried out in a short, four-week period.

Aim Statement

To develop and provide guidance to state and local public health officials to assist their understanding of the marketplace of digital tools in support of contact tracing, and to provide guidance to industry partners (i.e., technology companies) to ensure technology meets the functional and privacy needs and standards required by state and local public health officials for contact tracing.

Project Updates

A broad public health forum joined to discuss three primary topics: (1) a preliminary national approach by the CDC to pilot, evaluate and develop guidance for Apple | Google's exposure notification API, (2) relative perspectives regarding how the exposure notification tool can support public health agencies, and (3) a presentation from technical experts at Apple | Google on their exposure notification API and accompanying plans to support public health adoption. 

Minutes | Materials

The design team convenved on May 15, 2020 to gain consensus on termionology and answer key questions that would help shape the approach for future convenings. The group also reviewed a preliminary environmental scan of digital tools currently available and discussed next steps for a meeting with a broader group of public health experts.

Minutes | Materials

A design team was formed to set the scope, objectives and boundaries of COVID-19 contact tracing engagement and discuss the broader development of this effort. Its first meeting was held May 9, 2020 where participants defined the aim statement, the problems that needed to be solved and metrics for success.

Minutes | Materials

Important Details

Click to expand categories.

  • Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL)
  • Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundations (CDCF)
  • Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE)
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO)
  • National Governors Association (NGA)
  • Technical Industry Partners 

Friday, May 15, 2020: A design team meeting is scheduled to (1) gain consensus on key contact tracing processes, terminology and definitions, (2) perform a preliminary review of an environmental scan on digital tools in support of contact tracing, and (3) determine the scope and immediate next steps to prepare for convening of a broader group of public health experts. 

TBD: State, local and federal public health agencies as well as national public health associations will participate in a workgroup (1) to gain alignment around approach for use of digital tools for contact tracing, (2) to discuss opportunities to further enhance contact tracing through the support of digital tools, (3) to review diagrams, and (4) to gain an understanding of the requirements gaps in the current marketplace that could benefit from support of digital tools. 

TBD: This meeting will bring together industry partners and state, local and federal public health agencies as well as national public health associations. The purpose will be to (1) educate industry partners on the public health definition of contact tracing and gain acceptance, and (2) allow discussion to lay out further public health requirements needed from digital tools to meet public health needs for contact tracing.


Common Ground: Public Health Preparedness Toolkit (Public Health Informatics Institute)
Designed to assist chronic disease and preparedness departments in public health agencies by documenting and defining business processes
common to each of them and identifying the requirements for information systems that would support these processes.

COVID-19 Contact Tracing Training Guidance and Resources (CDC)
Sample training plan including training topics that may be helpful for state and local public health jurisdictions to consider when designing their own training plan for COVID-19 contact tracers.

Preliminary Criteria for the Evaluation of Digital Contact Tracing Tools for COVID-19 (CDC)
Minimum and preferred characteristics of digital contact tracing tools to help local and state health departments overcome one or more obstacles in the COVID-19 contact tracing workflow.

Redesigning Public Health Surveillance in an eHealth World (Public Health Informatics Institute)
Roadmap and a tool for moving public health toward acquiring information systems that will support its work effectively and efficiently by leveraging standards‐based information flows from electronic laboratory reporting (ELR) and electronic health record (EHR) systems.

Resolve to Save Lives: Contact Tracing Sprint Presentation (Resolve to Save Lives)
Description of MVP (minimum viable product) digital solution for increasing efficiency and efficacy of contact tracing.