Microsoft, UnitedHealth offer app for companies to screen employees for COVID-19



MINNETONKA, Minn. - As states across the country begin reopening, UnitedHealth Group and Microsoft are offering an app to help employers screen workers for COVID-19 upon returning to work.

The ProtectWell app provides workers a series of questions to screen for COVID-19 infection or exposure, including asking for the employee’s temperature and if they are experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath. The app will either clear them for work or direct them into a testing process that will notify both them and the employer of the results, according to a statement.

The app is among a rush of new technologies aiming to help companies bring people back to work safely amid the coronavirus pandemic, including services by AppianCollective HealthPwC and tech giants Apple and Google.

The ProtectWell app provides guidelines on physical distancing, personal hygiene, sanitation and more to help ensure a safe work environment. Microsoft and UnitedHealth, which are both using the app for their workers, are offering the service to U.S. employers free of charge.

Companies who use the service will also be able to choose content specific to their industry and workers.

“A worker in a nursing home for example … we would want to be doing the symptom checking every single day, and then be put into a testing schedule that allows them to get tested, anywhere from three to… every five days,” Ken Ehlert, UnitedHealth Group chief scientific officer, told CNBC of the app.

While Microsoft’s AI-powered health care bot drives the questions to screen for coronavirus in the app, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth maintains control over the health care data “in accordance with occupational health laws,” the statement said. Microsoft does not access to identifiable information.

States have begun easing lockdowns in varied ways and about 133,000 U.S. workers are expected to pour back into assembly plants that will open in the coming week, according to estimates by The Associated Press.

Roughly 36 million people have sought unemployment benefits in just the two months since the virus first forced businesses to close and shrink their workforces.