FREE TESTING NOW

Free Houston-area drive-thru coronavirus testing now available to those experiencing symptoms

Houstonians experiencing coronavirus symptoms can get tested for free starting this week. Photo by Getty Images

As local, state, and national government urges Americans to social distance and self-quarantine if ill, Houstonians are feeling the malaise of fear grip them as coronavirus testing questions still go unanswered.

Starting on Thursday, March 19, locals will have some respite, as Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, chair of the Congressional Coronavirus Task Force, announced that free testing is available here.

The free testing will be held at United Memorial Medical Center, located at 510 West Tidwell Rd.. Those suffering from potential coronavirus/COVID -19 symptoms can visit the center at these dates and times:

  • Thursday, March 19: 10 am - 8 pm
  • Friday, March 20: 8am -6 pm
  • Monday, March 23 through Friday, March 27: 8 am - 8 pm

This comes as President Trump signed a Congressional bill on Wednesday, March 18, which allows people with symptoms of the coronavirus to be tested for free.

The Center for Disease Control says that reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure and include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

The documented number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. now tops 9,500; experts are calling it exponential growth. Meanwhile, Houston has seen a spike in cases: As of Wednesday, March 18, some 19 new cases of coronavirus were announced by local and county officials, bringing the total number of cases to 62. That marks the highest spark of reported cases thus far.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap. Click here for latest update to the story.

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Building Houston

 
 

Koda Health, Houston, uses AI to help guide difficult conversations in health care, starting with end-of-life care planning. Image via kodahealthcare.com

A new Houston-based digital advanced care planning company is streamlining some of the most difficult conversations in the health care industry around palliative care.

Founded by Tatiana Fafanova, Dr. Desh Mohan, and Katelin Cherry, Koda Health uses AI to help patients create advance medical care directives and documents—such as a living will—through an easy to use web-based interface.

Koda Health uses a conversational platform where users can enter information about their values, living situations, quality of life wishes, and more while learning about different care options at their own speed. It also uses a proprietary machine learning approach that personalizes audio-video guided dialogue based on the patient's individual and cultural preferences.

The app then autogenerates legal and medical documents, which patients can notarize or electronically witness the forms through the app or on their own.

According to Fafanova, who earned her PhD in in Molecular Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and now acts as the company's CEO, what historically has been a time consuming and expensive process, through Koda Health, takes an average of 17 minutes and is completely free of charge to the end user.

"We hope to reduce any outstanding barriers to access that might exist," Fafanova says. "It is very frequently the oldest and the poorest that are the highest utilizers of health care that don't have access to these solutions."

The app is also projected to save health care systems roughly $9,500 per patient per year, as it allows for hospitals and organizations to better plan for what their patient population is seeking in end-of-life-care.

The B2B platform was born out of the TMC's Biodesign Fellowship, which tasked Koda's founding members with finding solutions to issues surrounding geriatric care in the medical center. In March 2020, Koda incorporated. Not long after ICU beds began to fill with COVID-19 patients, "galvanizing" the team's mission, Fafanova says.

"It was no longer this conceptual thing that we needed to address and write a report on. Now it was that people were winding up in the hospital at alarming rates and none of those individuals had advanced care planning in place," she says.

After accelerating the development of the product, Koda Health is now being used by health care systems in Houston, Texas, and Virginia.

The company recently received a Phase I grant of $256,000 from the National Science Foundation, which will allow Koda to deploy the platform at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and test it against phone conversations with 900 patients. Fafanova says the company will also use the funds to continue to develop personalization algorithms to improve Kona's interface for users.

"We want to make this a platform that mimics a high quality conversation," she says.

After Koda completes the Phase I pilot program it will then be eligible to apply for a Phase II award of up to $1 million in about a year.

Koda Health was founded by Tatiana Fafanova, Dr. Desh Mohan, and Katelin Cherry. Photos via kodahealthcare.com

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