NEWPORT — A local health services provider aims to launch a mobile app that could notify users when they have had prolonged contact with someone who has tested positive for the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.
On-Site Medical Services, a new multi-service health care contractor based in Newport, aims to use the app to alert users of possible exposure to COVID-19 based on their contact with another app user who has tested positive for the virus. The app will also inform employers or college administrators of infection cases — though not the names of the individuals — within their working community.
On-Site Medical Services’s founder, Jim Keady, who also co-owns the Claremont-based health clinic Keady Family Practice, said the app could be a potential “lifesaving” device “with many different applications.”
“If, [for example], we were in a full conference room where everyone had the app, each of us had received a routine COVID test and one of us tested positive for the virus, then those results would get uploaded into our server, each end-user would be notified of their results through their phone, and the people who are in the room are notified that they are in proximity to someone who has tested positive,” Keady told the Eagle Times in an interview Tuesday.
An app-user who tests positive will receive “a special message” comprising a list of health recommendations and an invitation to have a telehealth conversation with an On-Site Medical Services professional, Keady said. Individuals who test negative will receive a message informing them of their own test result. Additionally, because someone from the meeting tested positive, the person’s message will likely recommend the person gets retested to verify they didn’t contract the virus, but may tailor specifically to a client-company’s individual COVID-19 policies.
Anonymity is a key component of the app, Keady said. For example, a college administration could receive general data regarding the number of students and faculty infected with COVID-19, but the app does not divulge names or test results of or with other users. Each app account is also individually password protected.
Revealing identities “would diminish the use of the app,” Keady explained. “The user would have to sign a consent form to use the app, and people would decline it because they’d feel threatened by the privacy use of it.”
The app employs Bluetooth “handshake” technology that records connections between app-enabled devices that remain within a six-foot proximity for a period of time. Currently that time is set at five minutes, under the assumption that users would not be wearing face masks, according to On-Site Medical Services Clinical Director Kristen Trembly.
Keady asserted that the app arguably provides a level of privacy that most company policies currently don’t. Under current practices, officials must meet with a positive test-case to learn the names of each interaction who may have been exposed.
Not only is the non-technological approach invasive but it is also faulty and time-consuming, Keady said. Its effectiveness, for one, hinges on the subject’s ability to remember the names of every interaction within a 14-day period. The process also takes time to notify the other contacts.
Keady projected that his app, if adequately utilized, could potentially save up to five to six days in the notification process.
The app’s conception spawned indirectly from Keady Family Practice’s ongoing COVID-19 testing services, which dates back to mid-March when Keady set up one of the first drive-up testing sites in the region. Keady formed On-Site Medical Services as a separate company to shoulder some of the local testing needs, as the demand outgrew the family practice’s capacity to serve.
The app is currently being tested within On-Site Medical Services and the company plans to test it in a local senior living facility, whose name has not been released. The growth of the app has required it to be placed under a new company called Wellbility. To learn more about On-Site Medical Services, visit their website at www.on-sitemedservices.com.