The COVID-19 pandemic presents a grim picture of hospitals filling up with patients who have contracted the new coronavirus.
The reality of that situation is that the doctors and nurses who are providing the life-saving care could also be exposed to the disease, especially as more stress is placed on the system. So while society at large is implementing social distancing and quarantine to stop the spread, there’s also a need for measures to manage the risk faced by the people on the front lines.
That’s where Mount Vernon-based emocha Mobile Health is putting its mobile video technology to work in response to the crisis: The digital health company is implementing a remote monitoring and engagement system at Baltimore-area hospitals affiliated with Johns Hopkins University and LifeBridge Health.
“emocha’s program is designed to reduce exposures among frontline healthcare professionals, and enable occupational health to quickly identify symptomatic and asymptomatic employees, thereby expanding their capacity,” CEO Sebastian Seiguer said. “Most importantly, the service keeps healthcare workers safe and supported in a high-pressure situation.”
Here’s how it works: The company is working with the occupational health teams to identify healthcare professionals who are potentially exposed. Once the company securely receives their data — whether through an initial collection in bulk or as individual exposures emerge — the healthcare workers get a link to log on to emocha daily to report symptoms through both a brief questionnaire and short video recording, and take their temperature. (Remember: Fever is a key indicator of COVID-19.)
There’s also a human side: The company’s internal patient solutions team reviews a submission, and can also answer questions through a two-way chat. If a matter is urgent, it gets routed to occupational health. emocha’s technology is asynchronous, meaning the videos do not have to be reviewed at the same time it is recorded. And the company keeps checking in during a quarantine period.
Along with JHU and LifeBridge, the company is also looking to deploy the technology with additional health systems, as well as in public health departments where workers are investigating cases.
Founded in 2014, the company licensed mobile technology developed at Johns Hopkins. Seiguer has talked about how the company’s foundational mobile health technology can be tailored for a variety of use cases. That has involved response to epidemics before, notably when it offered monitoring for travelers in 2015 during the Ebola outbreak.
The company’s growth in recent years has come largely in the area of medication adherence, which helps health workers ensure that patients are taking medication as prescribed. This involves applying video tech to a practice known as directly observed therapy, which has typically required humans to observe a patient in-person.
Earlier in March, the company said it was awarded $1.7 million in Small Business Innovation Research funding through the NIH’s National Institute on Diabetes and Digestives and Kidney Diseases for a joint research project with JHU to evaluate the company’s technology for use with kidney and liver transplant patients.
Transplant patients are on complex “anti-rejection” medication regimens that require careful adherence.
“Post-transplant, patients face significant challenges including extreme emotional vulnerability, fewer opportunities to engage with their care team during transition of care, and highly complex immunosuppressive medication regimens,” Seiguer said. “Given these circumstances, this study is an important opportunity to evaluate whether video DOT can help transplant patients adhere to their medication regimen and improve long-term survival.”
The company is also continuing to hire, with roles currently open for an associate product manager, engagement specialists and more.