Silicon Valley giants are building software and technology tools to serve as trusted healthcare resources in the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
Today, Apple released a new screening tool and resources to help people stay informed and take the proper steps to protect their health during the spread of COVID-19, based on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new COVID-19 website and app were created in partnership with the CDC, the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Along with efforts to curb the spread of the virus, public health officials are battling rampant online misinformation about the virus and fake news on "cures" for COVID-19 ranging from homemade recipes and alcohol to vaccines.
Private sector organizations are stepping in to respond, using their unique tools and expertise to fill the cracks created by an antiquated and overloaded healthcare system, according to Michael Abrams, managing partner of healthcare consulting firm Numerof and Associates.
As tech giants ramp up efforts to provide screening tools and information, the industry could see a shift in consumers’ trust and preferences, Abrams said.
"I also suspect consumers will come out of this crisis even more open to non-traditional institutions playing a part in their healthcare experience. Once this outbreak ends, this could be a catalyst for a more market-based shift in our health space," he said.
Verily Life Sciences, a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, also is working on a website that screens for the coronavirus and directs people to local testing locations. That site launched March 15 in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and has since expanded to two more California counties, according to CNBC.
Verily says it has more than 1,000 volunteers from across Alphabet working on its COVID-19 screening and testing efforts as it readies a ramp-up across more regions, CNBC's Chrissy Farr reported. The company also has set up “drive-thru” testing, manned by Alphabet volunteers.
"It’s interesting to see Apple bring this solution forward; originally, it was suggested that Google would create this consumer-facing COVID-19 tool," Abrams said. "Apple beating Google to the punch gives them a competitive boost, one that will serve them well from a brand-strengthening standpoint once this crisis begins to give way."
Apple's website and app "make it easy for people across the country to get trusted information and guidance at a time when the U.S. is feeling the heavy burden of COVID-19," the company said in a press release.
The COVID-19 app is available on Apple App Store.
Through either the app or website, users can answer a series of questions around risk factors, recent exposure, and symptoms and then receive CDC recommendations on next steps, including guidance on social distancing and self-isolating, how to closely monitor symptoms, whether or not a test is recommended, and when to contact a medical provider.
The company said the COVID-19 app and website were built to keep all user data private and secure. The tools do not require a sign-in or association with a user’s Apple ID, and users’ individual responses will not be sent to Apple or any government organization.
Last week, Apple also updated its voice assistant Siri to provide users with a step-by-step questionnaire if they ask variations of, “How do I know if I have coronavirus?” to access guidance and resources from the CDC.
The software giant also developed a curated collection of telehealth apps available on the App Store to guide consumers toward trusted sources.
This week, travelers landing at select international airports throughout the U.S. started receiving notifications on their iPhone to remind them of current CDC guidance to stay home and monitor their health, the company said.