Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 08/09/2020 --As hospitals cancelled non-essential surgeries during the COVID-19 pandemic and the volume of some clinical services decreased, Intermountain Healthcare began to re-deploy some of those affected caregivers to perform other healthcare roles that arose during the pandemic.
One of those needs was the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) needed more contact tracers. Contact tracers work to contact people who tested positive for COVID-19 and learn who they came in contact with prior to being tested, and where they've been, and then follow up with those individuals who may have been exposed and help them know what to do to help contain the spread of the virus.
"With COVID-19, contact tracing is an especially important tool since the virus can spread so easily," said Todd Vento, MD an infectious disease physician with Intermountain Healthcare.
"If you know you've been infected or exposed, then you can make choices to not go out and potentially infect other people. It's vital for people to immediately isolate and follow the recommendations from contact tracers. It helps protect other people from getting sick and slow the spread of disease," Dr. Vento added.
It turns out healthcare employees are well-suited to do contact tracing, since they're used to working one on one with people from all types of backgrounds and helping educate people about what they can do to improve their health.
Sixteen Intermountain caregivers joined the state's other 1200 contact tracers. The state health department provided training since they have done contact tracing for many years before the pandemic in similar situations to slow help the spread of other infectious diseases or viruses.
One of those re-deployed caregivers is Ally Cayias, an outpatient speech pathologist who works at a rehabilitation clinic at the Neurosciences Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah. She enjoys her work as a contact tracer.
"I miss my speech patients, but whether I'm working as a speech therapist or a contact tracer, the whole reason I got into healthcare is to help people who are going through something difficult," said Cayias.
The work interests her and as she collects more data, the health department learns more about the virus. Patient privacy is always protected. She also provides people with tools and resources to know how to keep their family safe and if they need to quarantine and for how long.
"I help people jar their memory about who they've been with. It's like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. It takes intuition. I also help alleviate fears. I learn to build rapport with people, and they begin to trust me and share more about themselves," added Cayias.
She helps people know how to talk to their boss or others around them about their test result or their exposure. She refers people to state resources to help with paying rent, feeding their family, or connecting them to emotional resources and hotlines.
Cayias is also able to reach out to non-English speakers through a phone system with a translator service. As a speech therapist, she's used to using interpreters and listening to people's speech carefully.
"But, just like speech therapy, ultimately it's up to the patient to follow through at home. I tell them what you're doing is important not only for you, but those around you," said Cayias.
Dr. Vento recommends if someone in your household has COVID-19, you need to take precautions to keep others in the home healthy.
"Practicing social distancing and wearing a mask still applies inside the home. If you're in close proximity, wear a mask. This will help reduce the risk of others in your household getting the virus. Practice frequent hand washing and clean high-touch surfaces often," said Dr. Vento.
About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For more information, see intermountainhealthcare.org.