After Corona test: Automated notifications via SMS ease the administrative burden

Following Germany’s federal decision of March 3, 2021, private and municipal testing centers suddenly mushroomed all over the country during the month. All citizens were now entitled to a free rapid test every week. The IT department of the city of Westerstede was also given the task of organizing an IT solution for handling the free COVID19 citizen tests for the city and the five municipalities in the Ammerland district at short notice. One of the requirements was that SMS dispatch of the test results was to be mandatory with this solution. 

Within three weeks, six test centers have been set up in the Ammerland region

Thus, the three-member Corona team in the district of Ammerland was once again faced with an organizational challenge during the Corona pandemic. The district of Ammerland is located in the northwest of Lower Saxony and its nearly 125,000 inhabitants are distributed among the municipalities of Apen, Bad Zwischenahn, Edewecht, Rastede, Westerstede and Wiefelstede. Within three weeks, Corona manager Hilke Hinrichs and Bodo van Rüschen’s team rolled out the IT solution for a total of six Corona test centers in the Ammerland district, centrally managed from the district town of Westerstede.

The initial situation:

“It was important to me that the processes during testing take place digitally, with as little contact as possible. We wanted to create a handling of the test processes that was to be implemented quickly. After the first meeting on March 11th with Corona management, we took time to first purchase the appropriate IT products,” says IT manager Bodo van Rüschen, describing the approach.”

The Westerstede IT experts are very familiar with digital processes

Bodo van Rüschen’s IT team started the evaluation with a thorough Google search for effective solutions in already existing test centers.

“We usually get asked when it comes to IT innovations and enjoy a good reputation in the district,” smiles the IT expert, who looks after around 1,000 end devices in the municipal facilities with his team.

Rathaus Westerstede

The town hall of Westerstede in the district of Ammerland
Photo by Vanessa Leffers

The test person identifies themselves via a QR code

The following building blocks were on the agenda for the desired IT solution: There needed to be an integrated SMS dispatch, the processes would need to be represented digitally and would have to be implemented without a so-called media disruption, i.e. “without having bits of papers everywhere”, wherever possible.

“With a smartphone or a printed email, it needed be possible for citizens to identify themselves via a QR code, and we also wanted to integrate the Corona warning app,” Bodo van Rüschen explains the work processes.

The API of sms77.io was already integrated in the solution from IntelligentMobiles

“We compared several IT solutions with each other. Finally, we took the Wilhelmshaven test center as an example. The solution by IntelligentMobiles, an innovation developer for websites and apps, already had all the IT building blocks implemented that were important to us. The API of sms77.io was also already integrated in this solution,” Bodo von Rüschen describes the process of finding the right IT solution.

Personen, die sich testen lassen möchten, können sich via QR-Code ausweisen

The identification via QR code also works on the smartphone, click to enlarge

The use case:

IntelligentMobiles’ solution, based on the ticketing software pretix, ran smoothly two hours after installation. “I already knew the software, which was an advantage, of course. We already used it to sell concert tickets last year,” Bodo van Rüschen continues.

SMS messages also reach citizens without Internet access or smartphones

“Now we also had to think further about how we could include citizens who do not have access to the Internet.” A telephone number was set up specifically for this purpose, where an employee makes appointments by phone during the week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then adds the mobile phone numbers to the system for further SMS notifications. This arrangement has also been implemented in this way in the other five communities.

Testing processes run automatically and without a lot of paperwork

Since March 25, 2021, people in Ammerland can register either via the booking platform or by phone for the free COVID 19 citizen test at four different test centers. They will then receive the order code via SMS and email. As planned, the processing during the test runs automatically and without much administrative effort. Test takers show their confirmed test appointment via email or SMS. The employees then simply scan the QR code at the test center using the PretixScan app and match the names with the ID card.

Only a few manual activities are required during testing

The test labels are printed out automatically. Then the test can be prepared and performed. The printed label is finally affixed to the corresponding test sleeve and sent to the laboratory. After 15-30 minutes, the test result is read, then recorded again via QR code and automatically sent to the tested person via SMS and email.

Automated notifications via SMS make covid testing a lot more efficient

The decision process:

“We relied on IntelligentMobiles’ recommendation regarding the SMS provider. We did not pursue other options, such as notification via WhatsApp, due to the current discussion about terms and conditions. I had previously looked into various German business messaging providers and found the price-performance ratio of sms77.io to be appropriate,” says Bodo van Rüschen.

The test result is sent via SMS – which saves a lot of administrative effort

“In practice, many stores and restaurants accept a presented SMS with the negative test result,” Bodo van Rüschen describes his everyday experience. “That’s why SMS as a short message service is something we can all agree on. Without the reliable SMS notification on the test result, there would have been a much higher administrative effort, in the test center, in the back office and in the result determination, for example by printing out certificates.”

Solutions and improvements:

“If we had not found an SMS solution, we would now be missing a crucial building block and we would have to have significantly more staff. The administration interface, i.e. the web interface, at sms77.io is very well done and easy to use. Also the support of sms77.io is fast and accommodating. What struck me immediately as positive was that it is a provider with support and a server location in Germany,” says Bodo von Rüschen, assessing sms77.io’s service and support.

SMS sent by the Ammerland test centers
0
in April 2021
0
in May 2021
0
in the first half of June 2021
0
daily on average

Conclusion:

“Not having the automated notifications via SMS would have meant a much higher personnel effort for us. Ultimately, this would have had an impact on the test capacities in the centers, as there would have been considerably more inquiries about the results. We sent 150.000 SMS within 5 weeks – this would not have been feasible with a ‘hobbyist’ solution. The service of sms77.io works 24/7 and we could not detect any failures”.

In case of a positive test result, the delivery via SMS is very reliable

“We are very pleased with the feedback from citizens that we have created an easy-to-use and reliable solution. I also find it reassuring that in the event of a positive test, the infected person is reliably informed by SMS,” concludes Bodo van Rüschen, expressing his satisfaction with the automated SMS solution.

Here at sms77.io we are also very pleased that SMS notifications in a pandemic situation contribute significantly to the unbureaucratic and yet very reliable transmission of the health status of those tested. And of course we are happy about the successful cooperation!

All the best
Your sms77 team

Header: iStock.com/aprott, edited color.

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