BACKGROUND: Online respondent-driven detection (RDD) is a novel method of case finding that can enhance contact tracing (CT). However, the advantages and challenges of RDD for CT have not yet been investigated from the perspective of public health professionals (PHPs). Therefore, it remains unclear if, and under what circumstances, PHPs are willing to apply RDD for CT.

METHODS: Between March and April 2019, we conducted semi-structured interviews with Dutch PHPs responsible for CT in practice. Questions were derived from the 'diffusion of innovations' theory. Between May and June 2019, we distributed an online questionnaire among 260 Dutch PHPs to quantify the main qualitative findings. Using different hypothetical scenarios, we assessed anticipated advantages and challenges of RDD, and PHPs' intention to apply RDD for CT.

RESULTS: Twelve interviews were held, and 70 PHPs completed the online questionnaire. A majority of questionnaire respondents (71%) had a positive intention towards using RDD for CT. Anticipated advantages of RDD were 'accommodating easy and autonomous participation in CT of index cases and contact persons', and 'reaching contact persons more efficiently'. Anticipated challenges were 'limited opportunities for PHPs to support, motivate, and coordinate the execution of CT', 'not being able to adequately convey measures to index cases and contact persons', and 'anticipated unrest among index cases and contact persons'. Circumstances under which PHPs anticipated RDD applicable for CT included index cases and contact persons being reluctant to share information directly with PHPs, digitally skilled and literate persons being involved, and large scale CT. Circumstances under which PHPs anticipated RDD less applicable for CT included severe consequences of missing information or contact persons for individual or public health, involvement of complex or impactful measures for index cases and contact persons, and a disease being perceived as severe or sensitive by index cases and their contact persons.

CONCLUSIONS: PHPs generally perceived RDD as a potentially beneficial method for public health practice, that may help overcome challenges present in traditional CT, and could be used during outbreaks of infectious diseases that spread via close contact. The circumstances under which CT is performed, appear to strongly influence PHPs' intention to use RDD for CT.

Original languageEnglish
Article number358
JournalBMC Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • adult
  • communicable disease control/methods
  • communicable diseases/pathology
  • contact tracing
  • female
  • health personnel/psychology
  • humans
  • internet
  • interviews as topic
  • male
  • middle aged
  • public health practice
  • surveys and questionnaires


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