Data collection and management can be challenging in a rapidly evolving infectious disease outbreak such as COVID-19. Data is often collected by various individuals in different formats in the early stages of investigation. Effective data organization and access is essential to COVID-19 response activities, including case investigation and contact tracing.
RedCAP as a Data Management Tool for CICT
Case investigation and contact tracing (CICT) is an essential tool for controlling the spread of COVID-19. The process of CICT can generate a tremendous amount of data, so having a way to organize potential cases and exposures is needed for an effective response effort. Electronic data capture software, such as REDCap, can allow health departments or organizations to create databases to manage their CICT data. This type of database can also help organize specific language or other needs to ensure CICT efforts are appropriate and successful. REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture) is a secure web application for building and managing online surveys and databases. It is a fully customizable software that also allows for access from multiple sites. Importantly, for those using it in the health field, REDCap is HIPAA compliant and allows the user to customize their security and privacy control needs.
Successful Implementation in Minnesota
In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) began developing a database using REDCap. Focusing on those who had traveled abroad, the database helped organize information about possible exposures, where travelers had gone, and then allowed for automated emails to help these individuals monitor their symptoms. In turn, MDH could then collect that data and see what was happening in real-time. While the database started small, it quickly grew to include travelers to different countries and regions. When Minnesota had its first identified case, it became an important tool that MDH used to organize its CICT efforts. The REDCap database played an essential role in helping with language barriers by allowing case investigators to note language needs related to a specific investigation. Then multilingual case investigators could provide translations for those surveys. As the caseload grew, it expanded beyond the capacity of REDCap. Teams within MDH, such as the Healthcare Worker Monitoring Team, still use REDCap to monitor healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19. REDCap can be an invaluable resource for those collecting and storing CICT data on a smaller scale.