Amazon Connect - A SAFER Solution
University of Arizona’s Student Aid for Field Epidemiology Response (SAFER) recently implemented a new calling solution to better serve the needs of Arizona’s COVID-19 pandemic incident response. Amazon Connect provided a quick solution that ensured continuous SAFER team access as support staff were moved to remote locations.
The SAFER group of 20 students normally focuses on county health center outreach with intestinal disease tracking. When the COVID-19 pandemic increased the demand on public health professionals, the College of Public Health SAFER call center stepped up to conduct contact tracing of positive COVID cases for the county health department. They helped to identify anyone who might have come in close contact with an infected person, gather data, and provide precautionary information. The original five members at Arizona’s poison control quickly rose to over 35 volunteers on the front line.
“UITS was able to rapidly provide the SAFER team an efficient system to track our cases of COVID-19. The new ticketing systems is really nice. I would not be surprised if we use a similar system to track patients with other illnesses. The Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health could utilize this modern technology to better understand the health of our Arizona communities.”
~Briggs Carhart, MPH Candidate 2020 / student volunteer
With a small group, their previous support solution worked well and could accommodate the amount of data and calls that were received, including a small database system to log information as it came in. However, it became apparent that as the number of their volunteer staff grew, the current database would not have the capacity to support the increased calls. Additionally, these student volunteers needed to quickly become part of a new ‘remote’ staffing solution that was platform agnostic.
The University Information Technology Services (UITS) 24/7 IT Support Center that operates a campus call center, had been testing a new Amazon Connect platform for nearly a year as they moved into a temporary location on campus. The cloud-based call center system not only had the ability to help with a fully remote workforce, but also could be expanded to accommodate those who needed to use it. IT Service Management Executive Director, Susan Legg, realized the need for SAFER’s sudden remote workforce requirement and reached out to SAFER Coordinator Kristen Pogreba-Brown to introduce the solution and offer strategic support in transferring their call center to Amazon Connect.
“Working with UITS has been invaluable in moving our process online. Not only are we able to continue with our case investigations of COVID-19 patients, but this new system will allow even more students to volunteer than our physical space would allow.”
~Dr. Kristen Pogreba-Brown, Assistant Professor, Epidemiologist | SAFER Program Coordinator
The solution was a perfect fit with the growing need for the SAFER team. As an experienced call center manager, Susan Legg and UITS staff were able to offer guidance in training the new volunteers with customer service skills, knowledge base, team collaboration, and ticketing.
Although the UITS 24/7 IT Support Center had been successfully using Cherwell’s ticketing system solution for several years, one apparent obstacle for the SAFER deployment of the UITS Cherwell platform, was that it was not a HIPAA compliant implementation. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), includes a national privacy standard for electronic health information systems and the protection of individually identifiable health information.
Becoming HIPAA compliant was only the first of many hours of collaboration and development needed to create a ticketing system that would meet the needs of the SAFER team. UArizona’s HIPAA Compliance Officer, John Howard was brought in and Cherwell technical support was contacted to assist in getting the platform HIPAA certified.
“UITS development of the COVID dashboard and roll-out of other technology has been no small feat. Their team has been indispensable in moving our call center online and providing solutions to the challenges we faced. They have been nothing but prompt, reliable, and innovative in the way we think about conducting public health surveillance.”
~Dr. Erika Austhof, Epidemiologist
In four days, a complete risk assessment was run and additional product requirements developed by UITS staff specific to the SAFER program. All the necessary signatures were secured and the SAFER Team had a functioning ticketing system completely HIPAA compliant. Training on the new system was done by UITS trainers within the week and a critical need was met in a very short amount of time.
“It was amazing how fast this happened. There were a couple of things that allowed us to move so quickly. One was freeing up UITS resources to coordinate with the SAFER group, and then people being very focused with a sense of urgency. Compliance can’t normally turn around a request like this in four days, but our university staff understood that this is for the good of all of the state of Arizona. People really pulled together and have done amazing work.”
~Susan Legg, Executive Director, IT Service Management
UITS has been pleased to be able to play a pivotal role in such critical and time-sensitive work. It was truly a collaborative effort to establish a remote call center with a new HIPAA compliant ticketing system for the SAFER volunteers who give so much in helping the Arizona community with important information surrounding the COVID-19 Pandemic.