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UnitedHealth Group, Microsoft offer employers free COVID-19 screening app

UnitedHealth Group will maintain control over the protected health data and will manage opt-in and consent requirements.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

UnitedHealth Group and Microsoft have joined forces to launch a smartphone app that screens for COVID-19 symptoms.

The ProtectWell protocol is supported by a smartphone app that allows employers to offer workers a screening tool to determine when it is safe for them to return to work.

UnitedHealth said it is making the platform available to all employers in the United States at no charge. 

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The app includes an AI-powered healthcare bot that asks users a series of questions to screen for COVID-19 symptoms or exposure. If risk of infection is indicated, employers can direct their employees to a streamlined COVID-19 testing process that enables closed-loop ordering and reporting of test results directly back to employers. 

The Microsoft Healthcare Bot service is being used around the world for AI-assisted COVID-19 symptom triaging, the companies said.

ProtectWell combines UnitedHealth Group's clinical and data analytics capabilities with the Microsoft Azure AI and analytics-solutions app.

WHY THIS MATTERS/HOW IT WORKS

ProtectWell incorporates Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and clinical research to limit the spread of COVID-19 by screening employees for symptoms.

It provides employers with a return-to-workplace protocol to determine when employees may safely go back to work. It informs coworkers that their colleagues have been screened, and notifies employers that their workplace is ready to do business.

In addition, ProtectWell includes guidelines and resources to support a safe work environment including physical distancing, personal hygiene, sanitation and more. Employers can also choose additional custom content specific to their workforce for a personalized experience.

THE LARGER TREND

The healthcare information is managed by UnitedHealth Group and employers in accordance with occupational health laws. UnitedHealth Group will maintain control over the protected healthcare data and will manage opt-in and consent requirements needed from app users.

Microsoft will not have access to identifiable information shared via the app, but the de-identified workforce health trends and analytics information will help employers and policymakers make informed occupational and public health decisions, the companies said.

UnitedHealth Group has implemented ProtectWell for its frontline healthcare workers, and is in the process of implementing the tool across its business. Microsoft intends to adopt ProtectWell for its U.S.-based employees.

ON THE RECORD

"As we plan for a safe and careful return to the workplace, employers need clear guidelines to ensure a safe environment and a robust process for employees to screen themselves for COVID-19 symptoms," said Ken Ehlert, Chief Scientific Officer for UnitedHealth Group.

"As businesses begin to reopen, employers will need to monitor and manage their workforce for COVID-19 symptoms to help ensure those at risk of spreading the virus stay home until cleared by medical providers," said Microsoft executive vice president for worldwide commercial business Judson Althoff.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com