Following some innovative home testing programs in other countries, such as Germany, Seattle-based Amazon and the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN), a research initiative that evolved out of the Seattle Flu Study group, will collaborate to stop the spread of COVID-19 in this Pacific Northwest city. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also supports this important innovative initiative. Does this unfolding effort represent a regional model of technology-enabled, health care delivery moving forward?
What better way to stop a contagion than to keep people away from others and at home? They have been figuring this out in other countries. Now the home test delivery movement grows in the United States. For example, in the Bay Area (Northern California) Facebook has joined UCSF to produce up to 1,000 tests per day and home delivery could be essential.
Taking out COVID-19 Requires Orchestrated Regional Action
The vast, fragmented yet federated (when it comes to states and their responsibilities, laws, etc.) nature of the U.S health system necessitates federal, state and local responses and this latter activity greatly benefits when well capitalized, organized and influential corporations such as Facebook, Amazon or Microsoft get involved at the local level with local government and major health systems and academic research institutions.
Hence in America, responses to pandemics require important alignment, synchronization and orchestration of resources, assets and capabilities nationally, at the state and importantly on the ground in regions and in communities.
In fact, to that point Kristen Helton, director of Amazon Care, highlighted the important local emphasis, noting that “Responding to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 crisis must be a community effort that requires support from both the private and public sectors.” For example, as it turns out, SCAN evolved out of the Seattle Flu Study Group which happened to be taking samples for flu testing when the novel coronavirus pandemic started (Washington was the first epicenter in America).
The First Test Deliveries: The Amazon Care Underlying Model
In Seattle, Amazon will work to run its first deliveries via Amazon Care, an internal healthcare platform designed to support Amazon employees and their families. Amazon Care capitalizes on the Amazon technology and physician infrastructure to drive improvements to health care outcomes while reducing costs.
According to the initial report from CNBC, all Seattle area residents will be eligible via SCAN, such as children and people that may not be exhibiting any obvious symptoms.
As it turns out, SCAN evolved out of the Seattle Flu Study Group which happened to be taking samples for flu testing when the novel coronavirus pandemic started (Washington was the first epicenter in America). TrialSite News first became aware of this group because state and federal officials stopped them from undertaking COVID-19 tests because they didn’t have the proper certificates. We found this to be the wrong approach from federal and state-level bureaucracy. This important local group, comprised of academic medical centers, public health scientists and others, plays a key role in the local approach of agile, home-based testing.
Why is this Important: University of Padua Data Evidences Need for Testing All
As TrialSite News researchers learned from the University of Padua research model in northern Italy town of Vo, a great many people with COVID-19 don’t show any symptoms (e.g. asymptomatic). Hence, the hypothesis is that these individuals sort of act as carriers and infect others as they don’t look, feel or act sick. In fact, TrialSite News published a hypothesis by a German economist who warns we are just at the tip of the iceberg because many young people that don’t appear sick in fact are infected with the virus and will in fact spread it elsewhere. Of course, these are data points based on various locations and comprehensive, holistic analyses still need to be undertaken for a more totalistic understanding of the novel coronavirus.
Food for Thought
So based on observation from around key parts of the world an emerging hypothesis for successfully containing the pandemic includes concentrated national support and orchestration of money, resources and people to the extent feasible with large, federal bureaucratic structures; but importantly—health care happens at the local level—that methodical, disciplined and creative regionalized responses that emphasize pervasive testing, risk-based quarantines with emphasis on identifying asymptomatic individuals that pose risk to the system.
Hence the importance of a flexible, mobile and pervasive testing capacity and associated capabilities becomes of serious concern. Those companies that stood up and stepped in should be rewarded by enormous brand lift moving forward.
Looking to the Future
Opportunities abound in the future once this contagion passes. The current costs to society’s economy are great—the economic carnage will not hit everyone the same. The poor and lower-income service sector labor force faces tremendous pain and stress from this contagion and its parallel government mandated shutdowns. Many Americans have little cash reserves in the bank and not even health insurance. Waves of layoffs in sectors such as hotel and restaurant cut off people’s only source of income. A couple thousand dollars from the federal government is nice but will not solve the problem.
If the evidence ultimately reveals that a comprehensive, digital and mobile-ready virus testing infrastructure could have greatly mitigated the impact of the pandemic, undoubtedly public investment into upgraded health care infrastructure that benefits all people represents a high priority order of business. Politicians should be held accountable, regardless of ideological bent, to work together to take action.