Employee screening tools being developed by technology companies create unique opportunity for clinical laboratories to pursue strategic partnerships.
Verily Life Sciences is a research company founded by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, in 2015. Verily has played an important role in the COVID-19 response since the early days of the outbreak in the United States. In early March 2020, Verily gained national attention with its COVID-19 screening tool and, according to the company, has helped over 200,000 people to identify a need for COVID-19 testing.
Recently, Verily shifted focus to providing screening and testing to employers who are seeking to ensure that their customers and employees are safe. This service, called “Healthy at Work”, was announced June 18. According to Verily’s website, “Healthy at Work integrates COVID-19 testing, symptom screening, population analytics and ongoing safety controls to help organizations operationalize their plans to return to work and campus.”
“Employers are really focusing on how to ensure that they are not the source of another outbreak,” Dr. Vivian Lee, President of Health Platforms at Verily, told the New York Times in a recent interview. “And that they do not wind up in a situation where they’re putting the safety of their employees at risk when they need to be back in an office or a workplace setting.”
Adding COVID-19 to Selection of Health Condition Monitoring
While details about this new tool are still emerging as it continues in development, Verily indicated that this tool will be coupled with Verily’s Baseline COVID-19 Testing Program—the program launched in early March as the pandemic was starting. Verily’s Baseline COVID-19 Testing Program connects those who use Verily’s COVID-19 screening tool, and are found to need diagnostic COVID-19 testing, with a growing network of partner laboratories.
Moreover, as part of Project Baseline, the attraction of COVID-19 has the potential to go deeper as Project Baseline has been part of a study to comprehensively map human health. As such, COVID-19 represents a new dataset to possibly study in concert with other health conditions and medical laboratory test results.
Tech Companies Vie for Employee Health Program COVID-19 Services
Verily is not the only tech company to focus on COVID-19 employee screening. UnitedHealth Group and Microsoft have recently partnered to create an employee screening app called ProtectWell. According to a joint press release: “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.” Fitbit has also recently introduced a program with a daily symptom-checking app for employees and an employer dashboard that allows workforce health monitoring.
Will Innovative COVID-19 Partnerships Drive Higher Clinical Laboratory Test Volumes?
Clinical laboratories and pathology groups should be aware of recent innovations in the tech industry that will affect COVID-19 test volumes. As large, influential technology companies focus more on offering employee screening tools, the increased awareness of the need for related testing and demand by employers will likely grow.
Developing, tech-based employee screening tools may also enable clinical laboratories and pathology groups to explore strategic partnerships.
While the structure of Verily’s employee COVID-19 testing is still developing, it appears likely that it will be integrated with their existing COVID-19 network that includes public health and private clinical laboratories. Verily is actively soliciting partnerships for this testing program and the increased need for testing that will likely occur as employee screening becomes more widely utilized. Ultimately, such combined efforts will likely create a unique opportunity for clinical laboratories.
—By Caleb Williams, Editor, COVID-19 STAT