Sentinel Healthcare, a Seattle health tech startup founded by a doctor seeking a better way to monitor his patients’ condition remotely, has quickly switched up its product roadmap in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.
A mere nine days after making the decision, the company this week launched its Sentinel Fever Tracker, a new app to help health systems, hospitals, government agencies and employers keep tabs on the condition of people believed to be exposed to the novel coronavirus, while they’re under self-quarantine.
The app, available for iOS and Android, connects with a wireless-enabled thermometer and sends real-time updates about at-home temperature readings to a health system, healthcare provider or other organization working with the startup.
The first market for the app will be healthcare workers themselves, said Sentinel Healthcare CEO Nirav Shah, M.D., a neurologist and the former stroke director at Swedish Hospital in Seattle.
The company landed on the plan after talking with health officials and healthcare leaders who identified a looming problem: tracking the condition of healthcare workers and other staffers who have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, during their required period of self-quarantine.
“How will the system figure out how to get them back to work?” Shah said. “That’s going to be the biggest bottleneck in a few weeks.”
Beyond monitoring individual cases, there’s a bigger vision for the app: providing a way to track the spread of a disease using vital signs, by collecting data from its users. The tool has GPS features that users can opt-in to enable, agreeing to provide location data to Sentinel, which can then provide anonymized data to public health officials. Sentinel says its platform complies with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which includes privacy and security requirements.
The larger vision is to make the system a resource to track a disease as an outbreak occurs, using vital signs, Shah said.
Pricing for the fever monitoring system is a work in progress, contingent on discussions with interested healthcare systems, but the company plans to offer the service and devices as close to its own cost as possible, Shah said, explaining that Sentinel isn’t seeking to capitalize on the crisis financially.
Bluetooth and WiFi thermometers that work with the Sentinel app cost in the range of $50. The company had thousands of them available for use this week and expects more to be available in the coming weeks from its vendors.
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The 12-employee company started with remote blood pressure monitoring for hypertension, and has since been expanding into other areas of cardiac care, but it always had fever monitoring on its long-term roadmap. Based on its earlier offerings, the company is currently working with more than 20 healthcare organizations, Shah said, and the fever-tracking capability is now live with its existing customers. He said the company has also received interest from others, including bases, ships and hospitals.
Because the company is already designated as a healthcare organization, it was able to work with Apple to ensure that the app wasn’t thwarted by the iPhone maker’s efforts to keep rogue or illegitimate coronavirus-related apps out of the App Store.
The company is focusing initially on healthcare systems on the West Coast, in its hometown of Seattle and in California, two of the areas hit hardest by the spread of the novel coronavirus. But even before the service was publicly announced, Shah said, the Sentinel Fever Tracker app was already being downloaded by individual users in Italy, where the entire country is on a COVID-19 lockdown.