Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Free or With Suggested Donation
June 4, 2020
Written by Donny Jackson
COVID-19 patients can update doctors and other caregivers about the status of their symptoms easily while self-isolating at home, thanks to the COVID-19 Homecare service launched yesterday by iCERT Board Member, The Digital Decision, and Incentivate Health. HIPAA-compliant, COVID-19 Homecare lets users detail their symptoms on a daily basis through the smart-device application and deliver the information to healthcare providers or family without having to leave their beds. COVID-19 Homecare is built on the Incentivate Health platform that is being used to help enterprises and other organizations communicate benefits and monitor the health status of members, according to Incentivate Health Co-Founder Larry Toole.
“Around February of this year—when everything I was reading was suggesting that the pandemic was coming—we realized that we could take this platform that had been in production for four years and do a pivot on it and make a version of it that we now call COVID-19 Homecare,” Toole said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “The purpose of the tool is to provide support to patients who have COVID-19 but are self-isolating at home.”
Constant health monitoring is especially important with COVID-19, as those exposed to the disease can have wide range of experiences, from little or no symptoms in some cases to severe breathing problems that can lead to death. For those who suspect they have been exposed to COVID-19, self-isolation is a common practice, and COVID-19 Homecare is designed to help monitor the user’s health during this period, Toole said.
“What the tool tries to do is really help the patient—in connection with their doctor—stay on top of this home isolation, especially in the first couple of weeks,” Toole said. “The evidence shows that you can be feeling OK at home for the first four or five days and think that you’re riding this out well, and then you fall off the cliff and get into this viral pneumonia situation, where it can be very, very serious. Of course, some of those people end up being rushed to the hospital and being put on ventilators.”
To use COVID-19 Homecare, users can register for the service (available for free, although a donation of $10 per patient is suggested). Within minutes, users are able to complete a survey updating the status of key symptoms, which can be shared with designated recipients—for instance, doctors or family members—quickly through the service. Each user receives a daily reminder to complete the survey with updated information about symptoms, and COVID-19 Homecare provides creates daily reports that are available to designated recipients.
“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the patient experience,” Toole said. “We want to make this as easy as possible for somebody who is sick, scared and anxious. “Our view with this service is, when you’re sick, we don’t want to tell somebody that you’ve got to do this, that and a million other things. To register, it should take you less than a minute. You get a text message in the morning, while you’re lying in bed. You can take the survey on your phone while lying in bed, and you’re done.”
Although not required, one medical tool recommended for COVID-19 Homecare users is a pulse oximeter, which can be put on the user’s finger to measure the blood-oxygen level, Toole said. When this level drops, it can be provide an early indication of more serious COVID-19 impacts, he said.
“People should have these devices at home, and they should be monitoring—especially during the first week or two—their blood-oxygen levels,” Toole said. “The interesting thing is that, when you start getting viral pneumonia with this disease, you don’t necessarily know that you’re not getting sufficient oxygen. You feel OK until it’s actually too late.”
Robert LeGrande, founder and president of the Digital Decision, noted that user controls the data entered in the COVID-19 Homecare service.
“The data is the patient’s,” LeGrande said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We will leverage the de-identified data for the purpose of submitting it to health agencies and things of that nature, but outside of that, that’s how we’re planning to go to market with this.”
LeGrande said COVID-19 Homecare is being made offered for free to make it available to “as many people—for as little cost—as possible.” However, there are costs involved with providing the service, which is why the $10-per-user donation request exists, he said. LeGrande noted that donations are welcome from any sources, so they are not limited to users who suspect they have been exposed to COVID-19 or family members.
Meanwhile, the long-term hope is that a “national sponsor” can be identified to help fund the COVID-19 Homecare service, so the solution can be offered for free to all users while being financially sustainable. LeGrande said the “national sponsor” could be a government agency or a corporation.
“We use the term ‘national sponsor,’ because, frankly, anyone could sponsor this,” LeGrande said. “Part of what we’re doing is trying to expose folks to the tool and let them know that you have an operational, HIPAA-compliant, COVID-19-specific, homecare solution that you can solicit for funding through that grant—it’s qualified—and you can provide to your targeted group right now.”
In addition, the service can be used by individual companies as a tool to help them communicate with employees as they attempt to reopen their businesses safely, according to LeGrande.
“This tool sets up a way for the employer to interact with the employee on a confidential basis and make so that—if nothing else—at least they have a way to communicate with their employees, especially when they are remote or in the field,” he said.
“So, we think the tool is extraordinarily useful and compliant with HIPAA rules … Frankly, we built something that we think can help people, and we put it out there for that reason.” In addition to private patient-doctor communications, COVID-19 Homecare information also can be shared with health officials—if the user is willing to share the information, Toole said. For example, users of the service who have recovered from COVID-19 can opt whether to share the information with health officials, as their blood may have antibodies can be used to help others fight the disease.