Sara Alert: An automated symptom monitoring tool for COVID-19 in 11 jurisdictions in the United States, June – August, 2021
Health department personnel conduct daily active symptom monitoring for persons potentially exposed to SARS-CoV-2. This can be resource-intensive. Automation and digital tools can improve efficiency. We describe use of a digital tool, Sara Alert, for automated daily symptom monitoring across multiple public health jurisdictions.
Eleven of the 20 U.S. public health jurisdictions using Sara Alert provided average daily activity data during June 29 to August 30, 2021. Data elements included demographics, communication preferences, timeliness of symptom monitoring initiation, responsiveness to daily messages, and reports of symptoms.
Participating jurisdictions served a U.S. population of over 22 million persons. Health department personnel used this digital tool to monitor more than 12,000 persons per day on average for COVID-19 symptoms. On average, monitoring began 3.9 days following last exposure and was conducted for an average of 5.7 days. Monitored persons were frequently < 18 years old (45%, 5,474/12,450) and preferred communication via text message (47%). Seventy-four percent of monitored persons responded to at least one daily automated symptom message.
In our geographically diverse sample, we found that use of an automated digital tool might improve public health capacity for daily symptom monitoring, allowing staff to focus their time on interventions for persons most at risk or in need of support. Future work should include identifying jurisdictional successes and challenges implementing digital tools; the effectiveness of digital tools in identifying symptomatic individuals, ensuring appropriate isolation, and testing to disrupt transmission; and impact on public health staff efficiency and program costs.