A company that usually works with people with diabetes and TB is now helping hospitals keep employees healthy during the coronavirus outbreak.

Emocha Mobile Health is using a phone app to support doctors, nurses, medical assistants, and other hospital employees working with coronavirus patients. Hospital employees check in every day by answering a few questions about symptoms, recording their temperature, and then submitting a video. The responses are screened for warning signs about a cough or fever and then the video is reviewed by a member of emocha’s patient support team.

Sebastian Seiguer, CEO of emocha, said his company first worked with Johns Hopkins Medicine in 2014 to track all hospital employees who worked in the wards with highly infectious patients. Emocha is based in Baltimore. About two months ago, Johns Hopkins wanted to expand the monitoring to the entire hospital in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“About 10 days ago, we kicked off a healthcare worker remote monitoring and engagement plan,” Seiguer said. “We received a list from Hopkins of people who should be monitored and we also get individual cases on the fly.”

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Johns Hopkins has six hospitals where the platform is in use and emocha is also working with 10 hospitals in the LifeBridge Health system.

The enrollment process starts with a text message and a link to download the mobile app. Each day an individual follows the same process: Enter symptoms, record a temperature reading, and record a short video. Seiguer estimates that the process takes about a minute for the individual to complete the process and for the emocha employee to review the submission.

The combination of questionnaire and video often results in information sharing that would not happen otherwise.

“Lots of times the video doesn’t match the form,” Seiguer said. “Exposed healthcare workers will enter no symptoms but then say on video, ‘I’ve had a sore throat for a few days’.”

The patient engagement team at emocha can check in with individuals who are ill or in quarantine via a chat function in the app to answer questions and provide support. Emocha also tracks the quarantine period.

Some components of the monitoring system are automated, but a person at emocha reviews each video. When a person reports a high temperature, that triggers a group email and emocha employees follow up with the new case.

“The playbook is being developed as we go and it changes based on what the CDC demands,” he said. “Right now you need to make sure the hospital gets consolidated information in one actionable list to follow up on.”

In hospitals, occupational health departments in charge of the health of employees. They track sick workers. These departments are as overwhelmed as the rest of the healthcare system, so having an outside monitoring system for potentially ill workers eases that burden somewhat.

Emocha has two product lines: A SaaS platform that public health departments use to monitor people with highly contagious diseases and a patient solutions group for health insurance companies and health systems to support medication adherence. When an individual is prescribed a drug treatment, there is a 50/50 chance that he or she will follow through and take the medication as prescribed. Digital health companies like emocha have developed apps and other engagement programs to make it more likely a person will take a drug as prescribed.

The company’s initial focus was medication adherence-making sure people with certain serious health conditions take their medication every day as prescribed. This includes people with TB and transplant patients. Both conditions require a specific daily medication schedule. With TB patients, public health officials monitor people with the condition to make sure they are taking the meds every day for up to seven months.

Seigur said that when the company started five years ago, people thought the idea of asynchronous video check-ins was crazy because people would not want to go on video. Now the idea has been proven valid after working with health departments and individual patients.

“When someone gets on camera and tells you something, you get real information,” he said.

Emocha built a patient monitoring app that uses a short list of questions and a video to monitor exposure to the coronavirus among doctors and nurses.
Image: emocha