Dutch public health professionals' perspectives and needs regarding citizen involvement in COVID-19 contact tracing through digital support tools: an exploratory qualitative study

Y B Helms, M L Stein, N Hamdiui, A van der Meer, R Baron, R Eilers, R Crutzen, M E E Kretzschmar, A Timen

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Contact tracing (CT) is an important, but resource-intensive tool to control outbreaks of communicable diseases. Under pandemic circumstances, public health services may not have sufficient resources at their disposal to effectively facilitate CT. This may be addressed by giving cases and their contact persons more autonomy and responsibility in the execution of CT by public health professionals, through digital contact tracing support tools (DCTS-tools). However, the application of this approach has not yet been systematically investigated from the perspective of public health practice. Therefore, we investigated public health professionals' perspectives and needs regarding involving cases and contact persons in CT for COVID-19 through DCTS-tools.

METHODS: Between October 2020 and February 2021, we conducted online semi-structured interviews (N = 17) with Dutch public health professionals to explore their perspectives and needs regarding the involvement of cases and contact persons in CT for COVID-19 through DCTS-tools, in the contact identification, notification, and monitoring stages of the CT-process. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. A thematic analysis was performed.

RESULTS: Four main themes related to Dutch public health professionals' perspectives and needs regarding involving cases and contact persons in CT for COVID-19 through DCTS-tools emerged from the data: 'Distinct characteristics of CT with DCTS-tools'; 'Anticipated benefits and challenges of CT for COVID-19 with DCTS- tools'; 'Circumstances in CT for COVID-19 that permit or constrain the application of DCTS-tools'; and 'Public health professionals' needs regarding the development and application of DCTS-tools for CT'. Public health professionals seem to have a positive attitude towards involving cases and contact persons through DCTS-tools. Public health professionals' (positive) attitudes seem conditional on the circumstances under which CT is performed, and the fulfilment of their needs in the development and application of DCTS-tools.

CONCLUSIONS: Dutch public health professionals seem positive towards involving cases and contact persons in CT for COVID-19 through DCTS-tools. Through adequate implementation of DCTS-tools in the CT-process, anticipated challenges can be overcome. Future research should investigate the perspectives and needs of cases and contact persons regarding DCTS-tools, and the application of DCTS-tools in practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1378
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Volume22
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2022

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Contact tracing
  • Healthcare delivery
  • Healthcare professionals
  • Patient participation
  • Qualitative research
  • eHealth

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