Source: News & Observer by Zachery Eanes | March 26, 2020

Validic, a Durham-based health data startup, is rolling out a new product this week to help health care systems and other businesses monitor in real-time whether any of their patients or employees are showing symptoms for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The new platform, which the company’s engineers made operational in around a week’s time, is meant to ease the logistical pains of keeping track of potentially hundreds to thousands of people for signs of fever, coughing or shortness of breath — key symptoms of COVID-19.

With the number of COVID-19 cases rapidly increasing, the company believes its product could be key for minimizing further infections and saving beds at hospitals for the sickest of patients.

Founded in 2010, Validic is based in the Chesterfield building in downtown Durham, where it has around 64 employees. (The company is working remotely at the moment due to the coronavirus.) Validic specializes in offering health care organization access to personal health data for virtual engagement and remote monitoring programs, a service that has helped it raise about $18.4 million in funding from investors like Mark Cuban and Kaiser Permanente Ventures.

With the number of COVID-19 cases rapidly increasing, the company believes its product could be key for minimizing further infections and saving beds at hospitals for the sickest of patients.

Drew Schiller, co-founder and CEO Of Validic, said the idea for the project came to the company after one of its employees was potentially exposed to COVID-19 at a LEGO fan convention in Raleigh. That person was asked to self-quarantine at home, while Wake County officials called daily to check on symptoms.

It seemed to Schiller that was an inefficient way to check on potentially exposed people.

“How are you supposed to monitor tens of thousands of individuals who are asked to be tracked for symptoms?” Schiller said.

“We realized that if we enabled the tracking of some very simple metrics, like temperature and oxygen saturation, breathing problems and coughing,” he said, “that could provide value to nurse-care management or the HR of a large organization with front-line employees.”

He pointed to grocery store workers as an example. They are working in public, potentially at risk to exposure every day. By putting its employees on the platform, Schiller said, a grocery store could get early warnings if an employee is potentially showing signs of disease. The quicker that employee is isolated and given treatment, the less likely the infection could be spread to other employees or customers, and the better chance for a quicker recovery.

Schiller added that it could also be used to monitor other key workers at the front line of pandemic, such as emergency responders, nurses, and sanitation workers.

An example of how Validic’s coronavirus monitoring platform would appear to users. Courtesy of Validic

How the platform works

To get the platform up as quickly as possible, it will be available through mobile and web browsers rather than an app, which can take longer to get up on Apple and Android phones.

The platform is accessed via an email link with a one-time consent choice. Employees have to agree to share their data before a company can add them to the platform.

After being added, employees would receive recurring daily emails or text messages with a reminder to enter data about their health: body temperature, whether they are experiencing difficulty breathing, cough frequency and oxygen saturation if they have access to a pulse oximeter.

On the other end, a clinician or someone in human resources would be able to view a dashboard highlighting the different statuses of monitored individuals. If anyone begins to show symptoms — like a higher temperature or trouble breathing — the system sends an alert.

The monitoring system also allows teams to note which employees are at heightened risk because of age or underlying conditions, and will keep track of when isolated employees or patients have completed their 14-day quarantine.

While no clients have yet signed up for it, the company is currently in talks with several large organizations about using it, Schiller said.

Validic plans to offer the platform at a low cost during the crisis. Though it wouldn’t reveal actual numbers, the company said it believes it is low enough to ensure no financial constraints. For the company’s existing clients, which number around 180, the platform will be available at no additional cost.