AUSTIN, TX – April 17, 2020 – The City of Austin today announced a new digital tool that will allow citizens to electronically schedule COVID-19 tests. Created in partnership with NTT DATA, the application will also enable the city to securely trace anonymized positive results to assess testing demand and identify high-risk areas for proactive response.
Austin citizens can visit AustinTexas.gov/COVID19 on any web-enabled device to use the Public Testing Enrollment Form. Based on responses to common symptoms of COVID-19, citizens may be eligible to electronically schedule a test within a 15-minute window at one of five city-wide locations. Once a test is scheduled, citizens will securely receive a one-time-use QR code on the application’s portal to facilitate quick identification and check-in at the testing sites and securely obtain their test results, which can be traced in accordance with applicable privacy rules.
“The launch of the Public Testing Enrollment Form is a pivotal point in the testing capability for our community,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority. “As we gather more data through widespread testing, we are provided a bigger picture in the impact of COVID-19 in Austin-Travis County.”
If a citizen who uses the application tests positive for COVID-19, they will receive an automated email message directing them to the portal that contains instructions on how to mitigate additional community spread of the virus, as well as guidance on how to monitor symptoms to determine if additional medical supervision is necessary. The anonymized data will be compiled into an Austin “heat map,” which will indicate areas having a greater need of resources, such as tests and hospital beds.
In addition to scheduling tests and monitoring confirmed positive cases, the City of Austin will provide an automatic exposure questionnaire on the portal for citizens who test positive, which will help gather details on how the virus might have spread, such as travel and visits to high-traffic areas. The application can also send follow-up emails or text messages asking citizens to check the portal and report on their well-being so medical care can be escalated if necessary.
“This digital tool will give the City of Austin a clearer picture of how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting citizens. They can then proactively allocate health resources to harder hit areas,” said Chris Merdon, SVP, Public Sector, NTT DATA Services, a global IT services provider with its U.S. headquarters located in Texas. “NTT DATA is well-positioned to help any government entity leverage the latest technology to fight this pandemic, and we expect to roll out what we developed and implemented with the City of Austin to other communities to help combat this horrible virus.”
The portal also includes useful information on COVID-19 and automated chatbots to help answer questions, as well as a community chat feature that allows citizens to connect to each other electronically.
The application portal will be hosted on a FedRamp-secured platform engineered by the city. NTT DATA and its partners will maintain compliance with applicable privacy laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
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