How One Massachusetts Digital Health Startup is Confronting the Coronavirus

February 24, 2020
Source 
MassDigitalHealth.org Editors


Boston-based digital health startup Buoy Health and Boston Children’s Hospital are working together with the CDC to help everyday people better understand what’s real and what’s fake about the coronavirus. Read more about how these kinds of collaborations on major challenges happen every day in Massachusetts.

Chances are the last time you were feeling under the weather you Googled your symptoms or checked WebMD. Was it useful? Probably not. Buoy Health, a Boston-based startup, is building a better way for people to self-evaluate symptoms with their AI enhanced health assistant chat platform. Buoy’s platform, often available through company benefits packages, helps consumers get real-time information on what they are experiencing and then guides them on their next steps. The global spread of the coronavirus in 2020 recently led the Buoy Health team to develop features on their platform to address user questions and concerns.

“I think the biggest problem with epidemics in general is there is this massive supply and demand mismatch. On the demand side [there’s] panic and fear. People are saying ‘oh I know someone who went to China maybe I have it.’ That’s just totally inappropriate fear for what is actually going on. So, in this epidemic you have demand that is artificially high. On the supply side you have healthcare providers — there is not enough of them," Buoy Health Founder and CEO Dr. Andrew Le told MobiHealthNews in a recent interview.

Buoy Health teamed up with Boston Children’s Hospital Chief Innovation Officer John Brownstein’s HealthMap team to develop the coronavirus content available on the Buoy platform. For more than 15 years, Brownstein and his team have tracked the spread of global viruses and diseases. They first identified the threat of the coronavirus in December 2019 when HealthMap alerted them to reports of an unidentified pneumonia case in China.

Sandy Uwimana, Director of Customer Success at Buoy Health, said the collaboration between Buoy Health and Boston Children’s Hospital happened because Boston is a perfect testing ground for healthcare innovation. “Boston to me is the ‘Silicon Valley of healthcare’ because there is a real set of innovative companies right outside Buoy’s backyard. It’s incredible knowing that innovation can happen at such a fast pace, and that is what makes the Boston community great,” said Ukimana.

“We have been working with Buoy for a number of years, and they are a great company because their team is hyper focused on its mission – they can put real resources together, build a product, and deliver great results,” said Brownstein.

Buoy and HealthMaps worked together with help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to better understand the CDC’s guidelines for the coronavirus and incorporate them into their platform.  “Our team basically took those CDC guidelines, which get updated on a regular basis, and adjusted them into our AI, which actually was a very difficult thing for us because our AI is very nimble and it is mathematically based, to then layer in CDC rules was a difficult challenge,” said Le to MobiHealthNews.

Not only does this new feature on the Buoy platform help everyday people, it can also help public health officials and hospitals better prepare. The information they collect from self-reporting by users of the platform could be used to alert public health officials of a localized outbreak.

 “We have the potential here to help identify outbreaks before people get to the hospital,” said Le to STAT.

While we are still in the early stages of the confronting the coronavirus, collaborations like this between Buoy and Boston Children’s Hospital show that Massachusetts is serious about working together to take on the public health challenges of today.

For more information about Buoy Health or to use their free symptom checker, visit www.buoy.com.