Contact tracing with a real-time location system: A case study of increasing relative effectiveness in an emergency department

Thomas R. Hellmich, Casey M. Clements, Nibras El-Sherif, Kalyan S. Pasupathy, David M. Nestler, Andy Boggust, Vickie K. Ernste, Gomathi Marisamy, Kyle R. Koenig, M. Susan Hallbeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Background Contact tracing is the systematic method of identifying individuals potentially exposed to infectious diseases. Electronic medical record (EMR) use for contact tracing is time-consuming and may miss exposed individuals. Real-time location systems (RTLSs) may improve contact identification. Therefore, the relative effectiveness of these 2 contact tracing methodologies were evaluated. Methods During a pertussis outbreak in the United States, a retrospective case study was conducted between June 14 and August 31, 2016, to identify the contacts of confirmed pertussis cases, using EMR and RTLS data in the emergency department of a tertiary care medical center. Descriptive statistics and a paired t test (α = 0.05) were performed to compare contacts identified by EMR versus RTLS, as was correlation between pertussis patient length of stay and the number of potential contacts. Results Nine cases of pertussis presented to the emergency department during the identified time period. RTLS doubled the potential exposure list (P <.01). Length of stay had significant positive correlation with contacts identified by RTLS (ρ = 0.79; P =.01) but not with EMR (ρ = 0.43; P =.25). Conclusions RTLS doubled the potential pertussis exposures beyond EMR-based contact identification. Thus, RTLS may be a valuable addition to the practice of contact tracing and infectious disease monitoring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1308-1311
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican journal of infection control
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Infectious disease
  • Pertussis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases

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