The HSE is now sending a text message to inform all those tested for Covid-19 of their results.
This new system aims to continuously improve turnaround times for Covid-19 tests.
Both people who test positive and also those where the virus is not detected will be contacted by the HSE.
This ensures that each person receives their result as quickly as possible, allowing them to be aware of their status and to take action to care for themselves and protect others from infection.
This automation process is one of many service improvements in line with the HSE’s Technology Improvement Programme.
People who test positive for Covid-19 will receive a text message which tells them that they will be contacted by the HSE’s contact tracing team by phone for a detailed follow-up and that in the meantime they should self-isolate. People in their household should restrict their movements until the contact tracing team gets in touch with them. A link to detailed, helpful advice on HSE.ie is provided in the SMS.
In addition, the HSE will also phase in new text messages to people who are identified as close contacts of a person diagnosed with Covid-19. The HSE will be sending a text message to parents/guardians of children who have been identified as close contacts in educational facilities including childcare facilities and schools. The text will inform them that their child has been referred for a test as they are considered to be a close contact. If the child is feeling well, other people in their household do not need to restrict their movements.
However if they become unwell, they must self-isolate and phone a doctor. Other people in the household should then restrict movements. This will ensure parent/guardians are informed as quickly as possible, allowing them to be aware of their child’s status and to take actions to care for them.
The second phase focuses on all close contacts of a confirmed case. In these new SMS, the HSE will be asking people who are identified as a close contact to stay at home and restrict their movements. Each text message will be followed by a phone call from contact tracing with advice on when the close contact can stop restricting their movements and to organise free Covid-19 testing.
"We are keen to ensure that people who test positive or children who are close contacts are informed as quickly as possible so they and their families can take appropriate action and help to reduce the risk of spread of Covid-19," HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said.
"Up to now, we have phoned people who tested positive with their results. This change will mean they get an SMS quickly, and a phone call will follow as soon as possible. The same applies to close contacts in childcare facilities and schools - we can now quickly inform them and offer a test. This will help to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and limit the impact on schools and childcare facilities."
Anyone who is due to have or has had a test should self-isolate until they receive their test results. Following a positive test, they should continue to self-isolate for 10 days from when their symptoms began and until they have not had a fever in five days.
A person who is a close contact and has had a test still needs to restrict their movements for 14 days from the date they were last in contact with the confirmed case, even if they receive a negative test result. This is because it can take up to 14 days for symptoms of Covid-19 to show.
Anyone who is feeling very unwell or is concerned that their symptoms are getting worse should phone their GP or the GP out of hours service for advice. People can also contact HSElive for additional support and advice on what to do next.
The ICGP, on behalf of the HSE, has received an overwhelmingly positive response from GPs to this new SMS system when they were polled for their views. As part of the development process, a patient advocacy representative was also consulted.
In addition to complex contact tracing which is undertaken in the public health departments, the HSE has increased contact tracing staffing over the summer with over 320 people now working in national contact tracing centres.
The HSE is also currently recruiting additional contact tracers. The first 400 people are through the interview process, 65 new staff started last week and 70 start this week. The HSE expect to continue bringing in 60 to 70 new staff to the service every week over the coming period.