Long-term care has the unenviable distinction of being the source of more than 40% of worldwide deaths from COVID-19 and, arguably, the focal point of the medical community’s attention on how to prevent the virus’ spread.

Some experts believe that by the time methods such as contact tracing are perfected, the crisis will have passed. That isn’t stopping companies from developing new automated systems and high horsepower data engines, however.

Contact tracing long has been viewed as an essential tool for de-escalating the spread of infectious disease, but traditional contact tracing and smartphone-based contact tracing has not found widespread adoption in long-term care facilities because such methods are “time-consuming, require human data input, rely on faulty memory recalls, have high false positives due to bleed-throughs, and require cell phone devices that have low ownership among the senior demographic,” said Jerry Wilmink, Ph.D., chief business officer at CarePredict.

Although contact tracing has been practiced since the 19th century, it has yet to gain much traction in the United States. The LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies has heard anecdotes of providers implementing contact tracing during the current coronavirus pandemic but does not have data on their historical use of contact tracing, according to Majd Alwan, Ph.D., CAST’s executive director.

Deric Blattenberger, director of product management at CenTrak, said he thinks that soon  may change. “Certainty-based locating has not been implemented in senior living communities in the past in part because the technology available did not allow for it,” he said. “Technology has evolved, and today, certainty-based locating systems are affordable, wireless and relatively simple to install.”

The current breed of automated systems, Wilmink said, “are effective tools for controlling COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities with over 52% fewer cases than conventional methods.”

Alwan said he believes that contact tracing soon will be treated as a vital defense tool for future pandemics or large outbreaks.

This article appeared in the print issue as Focus On: Information Technology.