Sara Alert™ Academic
Secure monitoring and reporting for universities
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As COVID-19 cases surge across the country, the university system is struggling to contain the spread of the disease and keep classes open. Sara Alert™ Academic is available now by subscription for university officials to securely automate the monitoring of students, faculty and staff exposed to or infected with COVID-19 or any infectious disease in addition to monitoring other health-related activities, such as vaccinations.
The software platform is tailored to the unique needs of universities and colleges, providing an automated workflow to allow health staff to rapidly prioritize and respond to student and staff needs. It customizes what a university will need to streamline the process, such as student identification, housing information and tracking by university-specific areas, such as campus buildings or sports teams.
Students, faculty or staff with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, called monitorees, are enrolled into Sara Alert™ Academic by the university. Sara Alert™ Academic sends automated messages to monitorees each day via text or email. Monitorees respond to these messages, reporting any symptoms they may be experiencing. Sara Alert™ Academic segments monitorees into one of two workflows based on their response: exposure or isolation. Universities can use these workflows to determine and prioritize follow-up needs, referrals for care and overall campus status.
ORAU and MITRE, a not-for-profit chartered to work in the public interest, have partnered to deploy Sara Alert™ Academic, tailored specifically for university use and available by subscription. Sara Alert™ Academic is an adaptation of the original public health monitoring tool Sara Alert™. Sara Alert™ is a standards-based, open source tool created by MITRE that allows public health officials to monitor individuals at risk for COVID-19, enabling real-time insights and increased reporting capability for early containment of the virus.
Benefits for universities
- Rapid identification of exposed individuals, enabling university health to contain the spread.
- Data monitoring ensures students or faculty sick with COVID-19 are immediately referred for care.
- Ability to quickly and easily share information with public health and other stakeholders.
- Secure information exchange that protects individuals’ data and allows for real-time updates.
- Automation of workflow for university health staff in order to reduce burden, accelerate response, and prioritize those who need help most.
How does Sara Alert™ Academic work?
Frequently asked questions
Universities have different needs and requirements than public health departments. Sara Alert™ Academic is a standards-based tool, initially developed by the MITRE Corporation that is hosted, maintained, and enhanced by ORAU. The tool automates the process of monitoring and reporting of individuals exposed to or infected with COVID-19 or any infectious disease.
Sara Alert™ Academic allows universities to tailor messaging or create custom monitoring protocols within subsets of the population. Sara Alert™ Academic is a standalone instance available to all universities, and is not tied to a public health jurisdiction. This alleviates concerns with universities that straddle multiple jurisdictional boundaries.
Universities using Sara Alert™ Academic will be able to directly enroll their students, faculty, staff, and administrators. This can be managed on the university's schedule, and using current enrollment and staff data. Individuals enrolled in Sara Alert™ Academic will report their symptoms daily using a variety of methods. Universities can access this reporting data in near real-time, enhancing decision-making ability.
Sara Alert™ Academic leverages the existing Sara Alert™ source code, security protocols, data use policy, and help desk support model. ORAU implementation is expected to be straightforward and done quickly.
Careful attention to privacy has been a hallmark of the Sara Alert™ capability from the start of the effort. To ensure privacy and compliance to HIPAA, the data is encrypted at rest and in flight and is protected in a FISMA-Moderate and FedRAMP compliant environment.
The application was designed to comply with privacy and data use laws and policies. Sara Alert™ Academic will collect the minimal amount of information from individuals diagnosed with an infectious disease and from those who are potentially exposed to the infectious disease. The application will also have granular access control and encryption at the single record-level. Different roles are available in the system that restrict access to individual level information; this follows the best practice of restricting access to information to only users who require it. A user may also only access records that belong to their assigned jurisdiction.
The data collected is only what is needed to support public health operations and the information will be purged from the Sara Alert™ database following a specified amount of time after monitoring has ended.
Sara Alert™ Academic is configurable for different diseases, but each instance can only support one disease at a time. If a separate database is stood up, the Sara Alert™ Academic functionality could be used to support a different disease. Additional resources and support would need to be identified to support a separate instance of Sara Alert™ Academic. As an open source project, the code-base is available for use if an organization would like to setup a separate instance.
To learn more about how public health departments can use Sara Alert™ to monitor individuals diagnosed with or at risk for COVID-19 (or other infectious diseases), visit the Sara Alert™ website.
What our Sara Alert Academic customers are saying
Our experience working with ORAU has been excellent. The staff are friendly, organized and incredibly detail-oriented. Each meeting has been efficient and productive, and we have been particularly pleased with their ability to organize, maintain communication regarding, and fulfill requests that we have made to tailor the data system to our case management and contact tracing needs.
Our previous data system relied on patients to submit a daily screener to trigger a phone call from our case management staff. As a result, we lost individuals who did not submit the daily assessment to follow-up. The Sara Alert™ system also includes a daily symptom assessment, but triggers our staff to call the patient regardless of whether or not the patient completes it. This greatly enhances our ability to provide daily monitoring of isolation cases. The Sara Alert™ system also provides a much more comprehensive profile for each isolation case, offering a central location for notes, symptom trends, lab results, associated close contacts, and vaccination history. It is a much more organized interface that makes it easier for our staff to clearly guide patients on when and how to isolate safely.
The previous CNO began researching automated monitoring systems after COVID-19 arrived on campus. Her research was presented to the board and University’s Public Health Committee. After weighing all the various reasons, the way ORAU answered all our questions, informed us we would be supported to keep our best practices, and someone would work alongside us along to ensure this would occur. Coupled with the opportunity to be a part of testing and assisting ORAU create a system that is second to none was exactly what our clinic and university was looking for. This made the decision not to use the system our state currently has an easier one to make.
ORAU’s staff take the initiative to keep detailed meeting notes, to develop a focused meeting agenda, and to identify and follow-up on action items related to the development of the data system in a very timely manner. In a time when clinics such as ours are incredibly busy with pandemic-related efforts, the ORAU staff’s organization has been extremely helpful in advancing the data system to reduce our workload.
Podcast: Sara Alert™ Academic offers secure monitoring and reporting for universities during public health emergencies
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sara Alert™ was developed to automate the monitoring of individuals exposed to or infected with COVID-19. In partnership with MITRE, ORAU’s goal is to leverage existing Sara Alert™ technology to protect the health of students and faculty on campus by creating a tool customized to university needs, Sara Alert™ Academic. Sara Alert™ Academic can help universities safely operate campuses through increased efficiency in tracking potential cases, leading to earlier containment of the virus and reduction of burden on resources. The system can also help universities track vaccine uptake for COVID-19. While Sara Alert™ Academic was developed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the system is useful for any public health emergency, include influenza and other illness outbreaks. Join us for this important conversation.