How Collective Health, One Medical and other startups are working to get employees back to offices

A woman is wearing a face mask on the sidewalk
From pop-up health clinics to symptom tracking apps to diagnostic testing, primary care groups and technology companies are providing services and tools to support employers' return-to-work strategies. (Getty/filadendron)

As employers look for ways to safely bring employees back to office buildings, healthcare startups are seizing the opportunity to offer their services as a solution.

From pop-up health clinics to symptom tracking apps to diagnostic testing, primary care groups and technology companies are pivoting to offer services and tools to support employers' return-to-work strategies.

VitalTech and Zebra Technologies have rolled out digital health tools for employees returning to work, and artificial intelligence company Jvion offers a back-to-work assessment that screens employees for COVID-19 vulnerability.

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Verily and Fitbit also have jumped into the space. In May, UnitedHealth Group and Microsoft teamed up to launch a new protocol and app called ProtectWell as a screening tool for employers.

Many companies have been able to shift employees to remote work and likely will continue to do so until a COVID-19 vaccine is available. But warehouse workers, healthcare professionals, educators and gig-economy employees face an imminent return to work or have never left the workplace, says Jeff Becker, senior analyst with Forrester Research.

Tech giant Amazon is taking steps to set up its own COVID-19 testing labs at its fulfillment centers.

Most employers are still working on a strategy and that’s where return-to-work technology solutions come into play, Becker said.

“There is money to be made in this space for sure,” he said. “Tools are emerging and companies’ strategies are evolving.”

RELATED: Fitbit joins growing list of companies offering back-to-work health screening tools

Collective Health, a startup that provides tools to help companies with their employer-provided insurance, launched its Collective Go service for COVID-19 screening, testing and monitoring. Collective works with employers like Uber, Palantir, Pinterest and SpaceX to provide health insurance to their workers.

UrbanSitter, an online network of babysitters and nannies, has rolled out Collective Go for its 150,000 workers. The product provides both parents and sitters support for symptom screening, uploading their test results, and will certify their compliance with the testing protocol, the companies said.

Collective Go return-to-work app (Collective Health)

DNA sequencing company Illumina also rolled out Collective Go as part of its return-to-work strategy.

Businesses currently don't have a clear path forward, and they need a comprehensive solution based on the latest science to enable them to reopen with confidence, according to Rajaie Batniji, M.D., co-founder and chief health officer at Collective Health.

“Employers are challenged with how to implement screening, who to test, how often to test and where to find testing. Employers don’t want to be epidemiologists,” Batniji told Fierce Healthcare.

Collective has taken a scientific and data-driven approach to offer an evidence-based occupational health protocol that underpins a testing process, tailored to address risks associated with specific job types and populations, he said.

The company had the tool peer reviewed by health experts including former Food and Drug Administration commissioners Mark McClellan and Scott Gottlieb.

Current data suggest temperature and symptom screening alone aren’t enough to measurably reduce the risk of a workplace outbreak, Gottlieb said in a statement.

“Using protocolized testing and self-isolation when contagious patients are identified, tools such as Collective Go, could make it possible for businesses to meaningfully reduce risk in the workplace,” Gottlieb said.

RELATED: Optum: Employers leaning on health plans to help with return-to-workplace initiatives

Developing an occupational health program wasn't part of One Medical's business strategy a year ago, but the company pivoted to develop its Healthy Together workplace reentry program in April, said Kimber Lockhart, chief technology officer at One Medical during a recent virtual healthcare event hosted by media company Protocol.

The tech-enabled primary care company developed the program to provide employers best practices, screening tools and testing services including on-site workplace testing.  One Medical works with 7,000 employers.

“We work with employer clients to provide primary care to employees and we recently were brought on board to help our clients think through their strategy and approach for when it makes sense to bring employees into an office setting and how we can help with screening and testing in order to do so,” Lockhart said.

Carbon Health also rolled out an enterprise back-to-work management program that includes screening and testing, ongoing monitoring through an app and contact tracing.

CareATC, a health management company providing primary care services for self-insured employers, has set up pop-up testing clinics at employers’ offices.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, fully insured employers also are looking to work with primary care groups to roll out short-term, pop-up clinics to help manage workers’ transition back to the office, Becker said.

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