What we did
Protecting the health of a community in crisis
Each day, the employees at the St. Louis County DPH work toward a common goal—to promote, protect, and improve health in their community of one million constituents. Supporting the well-being of an entire county is a daunting task in regular circumstances, which only becomes amplified amid a global outbreak.
When COVID-19 spread rampantly during the early stages of the pandemic, locals turned to St. Louis County DPH as their beacon of information and guidance to navigate the crisis. The department was at the forefront of contact tracing and case investigation—processes that are vital to combatting any contagious disease.
But as case numbers exploded across the state of Missouri, the department’s team recognized that their current digital infrastructure wasn’t robust enough to manage the overwhelming outbreak. Restricted by the limitations of legacy tools, case tracers couldn’t search for crucial data components, edit information in real time, or move efficiently and consistently through current contact tracing and case investigation processes.
“Before COVID-19, our contact tracing and case investigation tools were designed for managing smaller outbreaks,” says Nebu Kolenchery, the director of communicable disease response at St. Louis County DPH. “The coronavirus led to case volumes we had never come close to before. Our only choice was to quickly overhaul our system as the situation was developing.”
The case for collaboration
The St. Louis County DPH team envisioned a modern tool that could scale case investigation and accelerate contact tracing. Their aspirations were met with budgetary complications and competing priorities, but the department’s leaders knew that the right partner could help them launch a new system mid-pandemic with the potential to transform the county’s plight against COVID-19.
When it came to selecting a partner, the team trusted that Slalom could deliver a solution that would address the current pandemic while keeping the future in focus. Slalom put together a tailor-fit team and kicked off the project by meeting with specialists and epidemiologists to consider pain points across the organization. With a clearer picture of the department’s challenges, our experts identified Salesforce Health Cloud and MuleSoft as the best tools for the job.
The goal was to improve efficiency by accelerating case tracking at scale, and generate strategic insights by improving data visibility and reporting. With better tools, St. Louis County DPH would have a stronger foundation to fight the pandemic in the short term and other contagious illnesses in the long term.
“Our collaboration with Slalom completely redefined how we manage outbreaks in the county,” says Nebu. “The tools we have at our disposal now give us more power to get a step ahead of viruses. They help make our community a safer place to live.”
Modernizing contagious disease management
Thanks to faster contact tracing and case investigation, getting ahead of the virus is easier than ever. Health Cloud unifies data across the organization, enabling an omnichannel strategy that helps St. Louis County DPH reach people more efficiently. Now, case tracers can send status updates via text, provide the latest CDC guidance by phone, and offer testing and treatment options, all from a single platform. Because of these efficiencies, case tracers successfully managed their workload even as case volume quadrupled.
The solution also uses a case management workflow that the Slalom team customized for the department. Data flows in from MuleSoft to sort contact tracing lists by factors like household, geographic location, and age group. With easy access to near-real-time data, tracers can prioritize cases with the greatest potential for impact without compromising the health of the larger community. Now the average age of an open case is down to five days.
“We wanted to build tools that made things easier for COVID-positive patients, too,” says Larry Valeriano, a director at Slalom. “Residents who test positive can manage their illness on their own terms. The tools in Health Cloud let patients log their symptoms, complete case interviews, and provide regular updates.”
Automations and self-service capabilities foster better patient experiences while freeing up employee time for tasks that have more impact on case numbers. Innovations like these have helped the department’s team increase their average call volume to 500 per week.
Before the transformation, it wasn’t possible for the county to accurately capture the rise and fall of COVID-19 cases in real time. Now, St. Louis County DPH has access to in-depth reporting that can help inform the county’s COVID-19 response as the situation evolves each day. The Salesforce data integrates with Missouri’s EpiTrax database to automatically share findings with the state. This free flow of information gives public health officials a more precise picture of the current situation, paving the way for data-driven decision-making and community guidance.
Even at the height of a surge, I have better insights than ever. The kids in this community are safer because of the work of this team.
A promising future for public health
In less than six weeks, the project rolled out to 130 internal users who experience faster contact tracing, smoother employee onboarding, and improvements in process consistency. The team plans to apply the same framework to other communicable diseases, such as STIs. They’re also looking to use the tools for their vaccine management efforts. Fortunately, the integration capabilities built into the solution make other advancements in public health possible.
Navigating a digital transformation while managing a public health emergency doesn’t come without an onslaught of obstacles—but when protecting your community is at the core of your mission, you can always find a way forward.
“We have never had a better go-live,” says Nebu. “Even at the height of a surge, I have better insights than ever. The kids in this community are safer because of the work of this team. I could not be more thankful or proud of what this team has done.”