15 May 2020
San Francisco: Microsoft has joined forces with healthcare company UnitedHealth Group to launch an innovative return-to-workplace protocol supported by the "ProtectWell" smartphone app that screens for COVID-19 symptoms and clears employees for daily work, the two organisations said on Friday.
ProtectWell helps employees determine they are safe to go to work, co-workers know their colleagues have been screened, and employers feel confident that their workplace is ready to do business.
It incorporates US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and the latest clinical research to limit the spread of COVID-19 by screening employees for symptoms and establishing guidelines to support the health and safety of the workforce and workplace.
ProtectWell combines UnitedHealth Group's clinical and data analytics capabilities with Microsoft's technology leadership to help in the next phases of COVID-19 recovery efforts.
The ProtectWell app is powered by Microsoft Azure, AI and analytics solutions, and also takes advantage of the Microsoft Healthcare Bot service, which is being used around the world for AI-assisted COVID-19 symptom triaging.
"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," Microsoft Executive Vice President, Worldwide Commercial Business, Judson Althoff, said in a statement.
"Microsoft is pleased to join with UnitedHealth Group to launch ProtectWell, which helps organisations manage the complexity of this undertaking."
The app includes an AI-powered health care 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.
Health care information is managed by UnitedHealth Group and employers in accordance with occupational health laws.
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 personalised experience.
"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.
"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 has implemented ProtectWell with its own frontline health care workers, is in process of implementing the tool across its business to enable safe return of team members to the workplace, and is making the platform available to all employers in the United States at no charge.
Microsoft said it intends to deploy ProtectWell for its US-based employees.