Texas data management system delays COVID-19 contact tracing 

Delayed data has become one of the many obstacles public health officials are facing in tracking COVID-19.

In a Travis County commissioner meeting Tuesday, Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott explained factors hindering his staff. The caseload is overwhelming, test results are lagging and the state’s data management system is not communicating with the local data systems.


“The challenge is that our salesforce system and their salesforce system which is called Texas Health trace don’t talk to one another,” said Dr. Escott. “The current situation right now is that the major metropolitan areas had to create their own systems for COVID-19 and the state developed theirs but none of their systems will talk to the state system.”

Lack of communication in today’s digital age was a shock for Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea. 

“I can’t believe the state spent $300 million on a salesforce software database to track testing and it can’t talk with the local health authorities,” said Commissioner Shea. “What, this is just maddening, the faxes, the inability of these databases to talk to each other.”

RELATED: Austin-Travis County contact tracing abilities impeded by widespread transmission of COVID-19, officials say

The county learned Austin Public Health received about 1,000 faxes a day of data. The agency would then insert the information manually into their system.

“Obviously without that integration process then it’s less effective than it could be we are not getting to the goal of taking advantage of the $300 million contract the state has awarded for case investigation and contact tracing,” said Escott. “This is why we are going to be less successful than other countries at handling this disease. We do not have community control. We do not have the IT systems because we have not invested in those in the past.“

Escott recommends the state use funds to place in front of contact tracing to ultimately help mitigate the spread. In a press release Austin. Public Health encouraged residents to avoid any unnecessary travel.

“Our concern is that the public may be relying on Austin Public Health contact tracing to contain this,” said Escott. “Contact tracing in this time of uncontrolled widespread transmission is not going to be as effective, especially if people continue to have increased contact with others outside of their household. We're asking that people not depend on contact tracing at this stage of the outbreak, but instead lend us their support and engagement to join our mission to slow the spread of this relentless virus once again."


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