New COVID-19 screening and test app to help streamline safe return of workers

The ProtectWell smartphone app is being offered to US employers free of charge by UnitedHealth Group and Microsoft.

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UnitedHealth Group has partnered with Microsoft to launch ProtectWell, a return-to-workplace tool that the companies said enables employees to safely return to work by screening them for COVID-19 symptoms and connecting them to a streamlined testing process with closed-loop ordering and reporting of results. 
 
The app, which UnitedHealth Group is making available to US employers at no cost,
combines its clinical and data analytics capabilities with Microsoft's technology leadership. It is powered by Microsoft Azure and AI and analytics solutions. ProtectWell incorporates Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and the latest clinical research, the companies said.
 
It uses the Microsoft Healthcare Bot Service, which provides AI-assisted COVID-19 symptom triaging, the companies said. ProtectWell also shares guidelines and resources to support a safer work environment for employees as they return to work. The ProtectWell protocol is supported by a smartphone app that employers can use to offer workers a simple screening tool for everyday use.

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The bot 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 COVID-19 testing process that enables closed-loop ordering and reporting results back to employers, the companies said. Health care information is managed by UnitedHealth Group and employers in accordance with occupational health laws, the company said.

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.

UnitedHealth Group said it has implemented ProtectWell with its own frontline health care workers, and is in process of deploying the tool across its business. Microsoft said it intends to deploy ProtectWell for its US-based employees as well.

"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, UnitedHealth Group, in a statement. "We are pleased to collaborate with Microsoft to launch ProtectWell, a simple and effective tool to ensure employers and employees have the information and resources they need to keep themselves, their colleagues and the public safe and healthy."

UnitedHealth Group will maintain control over protected health care data and will manage opt-in and consent requirements needed from app users. Microsoft will not have access to identifiable information shared via the ProtectWell app. De-identified workforce health trends and analytics information will help employers and policymakers make informed occupational and public health decisions, the healthcare company said.

Other UnitedHealth Group COVID-19 initiatives

ProtectWell is the latest initiative UnitedHealth Group has introduced to combat COVID-19. Other initiatives the company said it has also launched include providing $1.5 billion in direct customer and consumer support through premium credits, cost-sharing waivers; accelerating payments to providers throughout the crisis, with an initial tranche of nearly $2 billion; waiving cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing and treatment for US members of UnitedHealthcare plans and simplifying access to care by reducing prior-authorization requirements; and pioneering self-administered swab procedures to expand COVID-19 testing, reduce needed personal protective equipment and protect health care workers from unnecessary exposure to COVID-19.

Also see

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ProtectWell app

Source: Listopadova Olga for UnitedHealth Group