By Melinda Battenberg. California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on December 7, 2020, that CA Notify, the COVID exposure notification system championed by UC San Diego Health, will be available statewide on December 10. The system will make available to all California residents an important tool for slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Now, any Californian who activates the CA Notify exposure notifications can be confidentially alerted if they have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. This technology, developed by Google and Apple, enhances the state’s contact tracing efforts.
The governor’s announcement was the culmination of months of hard work by teams at UC San Diego Health, which led the initiative to bring the exposure notification system to California. Because of its integral role in implementing a pilot program for CA Notify, UC San Diego Health has contracted with the state to continue support of the exposure notification system through technology infrastructure and education.
Carolyn Nordstrom, deputy director, California State Project Management Office (formerly chief of staff to the UC Davis CIO), noted the strong partnership between the state and UC San Diego Health in launching CA Notify statewide. “The University of California San Diego team has been a tremendous partner in helping to launch the CA Notify pilot, expanding it to other UCs, and now supporting the statewide CA Notify rollout,” Nordstrom said. “This initiative succeeded in large part because of UC San Diego’s hard work and passion to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
UC San Diego Health had launched a pilot program for the exposure notification system in September 2020 for use by UC San Diego students and staff. During this initial pilot phase, a website and marketing plan were developed to inform potential users of the importance of the system and to encourage adoption among the UC San Diego population. Tracking adoption of the technology is a challenge due to the anonymous nature of the notification system, but the team at UC San Diego Health used visits to the website as a way to measure implementation of the system. The website visits indicated a high level of interest at UC San Diego that could successfully complement the campus’s contact tracing efforts.
Christopher Longhurst, MD, chief information officer at UC San Diego Health, explained the importance of the pilot program in testing the effectiveness of the exposure notification system. “The pilot demonstrated that this technology is effective for providing an early notification to COVID-19 exposed individuals, allowing them to get tested and start quarantine measures before they otherwise would have without the system,” Longhurst said. “This free and anonymous smartphone technology will now be available to all Californians and will help keep our state safer, especially in a time when we are experiencing a surge in the pandemic.”
With the success of the campus pilot program, the UC San Diego Health team then led an initiative to bring the exposure notification system to other UC campuses. By mid November, the exposure notification system was being used by seven of the ten UC campuses and four of the five UC health systems. UC San Diego Health also began offering the notification system to its patients.
The pilot program provided the UC San Diego Health team, led by Project Director Nicole May, with user feedback that was incorporated into the revision of communications. “Each phase of the expansion provided us with vital feedback from users that we could quickly integrate into the language we use to communicate the benefits of the notification system,” said May. “This process of continuous improvement and message refinement ensured that we were on a path for success when we launched at the statewide level.”
Marc Sylwestrzak, Information Systems director of Experience and Digital Health, UC San Diego Health, explained the continued support that will be offered for statewide notification system users. “We are offering support through a public website and a call center that will answer questions, with multiple languages available, regarding the notification system and how it works,” said Sylwestrzak. “We are very proud to partner with the state on a project that we believe is the right solution to help contain the pandemic and augment contact tracing.”
Please add your phone to California’s exposure notification system to get COVID-19 exposure alerts and ask your friends and family to add their phones too. Together we can slow the spread!
Melinda Battenberg is communications lead, UC San Diego Health IS and Quality.