there's an app for that

Houston-area health services company launches COVID-19 pre-screening app

A Houston-area company has created an easy-to-use health-check app for employees returning to work. Pexels

A Woodlands-based health services company recently announced a new app that can serve as a self-service pre-screening tool for COVID-19 to be used by employees to return to their workplace.

Axiom Medical created the CheckIn2Work app to make the transition into the workplace after the coronavirus crisis safer and easier, making it simple for businesses and offices to reopen after stay-at-home orders shut down workplaces during the height of the pandemic.

"Given the current challenges we have all experienced with COVID-19, we recognize the workplace will be forever changed," says Axiom Medical President and CEO Mark Robinson. "Our CheckIn2Work app simply adds another layer to protecting the health of team members, customers, and vendors from the risk of infectious disease in the workplace."

The app includes features such as a 24/7 self-service illness screening with the latest screening criteria approved by Chief Medical Officer Scott Cherry. The app also includes immediate access to U.S.-based Clearance Center for exposure/illness alerts, real-time reporting, and ongoing best practices to reduce the spread of the virus in the work environment.

When an app user is flagged as exposed to the virus, Axiom Medical's Rapid Response Contagious Respiratory Illness Assessment Clearance Center professionals can conduct secondary screening procedures via a phone call to confirm cases and eliminate false positives.

The app has 50,000 users already from Axiom's new and existing clients who have signed on to the platform. Some of their partners include BJ Services, Tyson Foods, ISS Facility Services, and Fort Bend Kia, Robinson says it creates safe and healthy facilities for both employees and customers.

"It enables our clients to be appropriately responsive to trying to screen out the infection in their workplace," says Robinson, "It also gives employees confidence that returning to work and exposing themselves to their coworkers is safe while providing customers who have contact with the employees with the confidence who they will be interacting with has been screened and cleared."

For the health services company, keeping employees safe has been the heart of their mission since it was founded more than two decades ago. Axiom Medical markets itself as an employer's outsourced "in house" medical department, managing a complete array of occupational health services such as scheduling exams, verifying results for accuracy, and maintaining records.

"Our focus is on the health of the worker in the workplace," says Robinson. "Both our traditional services and our new service all focus on keeping people as healthy as possible, returning them to work as quickly as possible after an injury or illness keeps them out of the workplace, and making sure they are tested for a variety of risks."

CheckIn2Work is now available on iOS and Android mobile devices including a web portal where employees can check in before work every day to check for symptoms of COVID-19. The app is adaptable with language settings in English and Spanish and allows for customizable questions to fit an organization's needs.

"I hope we can continue to take this seriously and take good precautions," says Robinson. "This is a really horrible disease, it isn't just about the people who die as a result, it's also about those who are permanently disabled because of it. Those weeks in a hospital are mirrored by more weeks in recovery before they can even think about working again."

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A new AI-optimized COVID screening device, a free response resource, and more — here's your latest roundup of research news. Image via Getty Images

Researchers across the Houston area are working on COVID-19 innovations every day, and scientists are constantly finding new ways this disease is affecting humankind.

From a COVID breathalyzer to a new collaboration in Houston — here's your latest roundup of local coronavirus research news.

A&M System to collaborate on a COVID-19 breathalyzer

A prototype of the device will be used on the Texas A&M campus. Photo via tamu.edu

Researchers at Texas A&M University System are collaborating on a new device that uses artificial intelligence in a breathalyzer situation to detect whether individuals should be tested for COVID-19. The technology is being developed through a collaboration with Dallas-based company, Worlds Inc., and the U.S. Air Force.

The device is called Worlds Protect and a patient can use a disposable straw to blow into a copper inlet. In less than a minute, test results can be sent to the person's smartphone. Worlds Inc. co-founders Dave Copps and Chris Rohde envision Worlds Protect kiosks outside of highly populated areas to act as a screening process, according to a news release.

"People can walk up and, literally, just breathe into the device," says Rohde, president of Worlds Inc., in the release. "It's completely noninvasive. There's no amount of touching. And you quickly get a result. You get a yay or nay."

The university system has contributed $1 million in the project's development and is assisting Worlds Inc. with engineering and design, prototype building and the mapping of a commercial manufacturing process. According to the release, the plan was to test the prototypes will be tried out this fall on the Texas A&M campus.

"Getting tech innovations to market is one of our sweet spots," says John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M System, in the release. "This breakthrough could have lasting impact on global public health."

Baylor College of Medicine researchers to determine cyclosporine’s role in treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients

BCM researchers are looking into the treatment effect of an existing drug on COVID-19 patients. Photo via BCM.edu

The Baylor College of Medicine has launched a randomized clinical trial to look into how the drug cyclosporine effects the prevention of disease progression in pre-ICU hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The drug has been used for about 40 years to prevent rejection of organ transplants and to treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

"The rationale is strong because the drug has a good safety profile, is expected to target the body's hyperimmune response to COVID and has been shown to directly inhibit human coronaviruses in the lab," says Dr. Bryan Burt, chief of thoracic surgery in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor, says in a press release.

Burt initiated this trial and BCM is the primary site for the study, with some collaboration with Brigham and Women's. The hypothesis is that the drug will help prevent the cytokine storm that patients with COVID-19 experience that causes their health to decline rapidly, according to the release.

The study, which is funded by Novartis, plans to enroll 75 hospitalized COVID-19 patients at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center who are not in the ICU. There will be an initial evaluation at six months but Burt expects to have the final study results in one year.

Rice launches expert group to help guide pandemic response

A new response team is emerging out of a collaboration led by Rice University. Photo courtesy of Rice

Rice University is collaborating with other Houston institutions to create the Biomedical Expert Panel, supported by Texas Policy Lab, to assist officials in long-term pandemic recovery.

"Not all agencies and decision-makers have an in-house epidemiologist or easy access to leaders in infectious disease, immunology and health communications," says Stephen Spann, chair of the panel and founding dean of the University of Houston College of Medicine, in a news release. "This panel is about equity. We must break out of our knowledge siloes and face this challenge together, with a commitment to inclusivity and openness."

The purpose of the panel is to be available as a free resource to health departments, social service agencies, school districts and other policymakers. The experts will help design efficient public health surveillance plans, advise on increasing testing capacity and access for underserved communities, and more.

"The precise trajectory of the local epidemic is difficult to predict, but we know that COVID-19 will continue to be a long-term challenge," says E. Susan Amirian, an epidemiologist who leads the TPL's health program, in the release. "Although CDC guidelines offer a good foundation, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when managing a crisis of this magnitude across diverse communities with urgent needs."

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