As the coronavirus spreads around the country, businesses are trying to track confirmed and potential cases among their employees so that they can take proactive measures and keep everyone as safe as possible. But for large organizations, keeping track of who among their staff has symptoms or has tested positive quickly becomes a logistical nightmare.
That’s why Appian, which sells a platform that enables its clients to quickly build apps using very little code, is releasing a comprehensive COVID-19 response system. The app simply asks all employees to self-report their health symptoms and status to their company, and it’s free for six months for businesses with more than 1,000 employees (which is the target market for Appian’s platform). It also provides a hub where people can volunteer, request help, and learn more about a company’s plan for addressing the coronavirus crisis. The application, as well as all of the data, is hosted in Appian’s HIPAA-compliant cloud.
The goal? With more data, an organization will be better equipped to see patterns among its staff, which could help it stop the virus from spreading within its facilities. “If you have data, you can shut down transmission,” says Appian’s CEO, Matt Calkins.
As the coronavirus continues to infect more people, one of the biggest problems has been the lack of widespread testing. The COVID-19 test shortage means there’s very little definitive information about how the virus is making its way through communities. And while many corporations have already asked all employees who are able to work from home to do so, some others—such as grocery stores, factories, and other businesses tied to the supply chain—depend on in-person work, which makes monitoring people’s health critical.
Hospitals such as Johns Hopkins are already using tech platforms to keep track of their employees’ health, a crucial component in the effort to fight COVID-19’s spread in healthcare facilities. Now, businesses are turning to similar tools. While small businesses may manage to keep track of the spread in something as simple as a spreadsheet, that’s not going to cut it for large corporations with employees spread around the globe.
That’s why Calkins decided to create the app and make it available for free for big companies. Several large corporations that already use Appian’s low-code platform have already built their own versions, including one of the largest banks in the country (Calkins declined to share its name). Now, Appian has a standard COVID-19 response app that companies can customize to their own situation within about two hours.
Appian, which is publicly traded with 1,200 employees and 19 offices globally, has already used its own app to narrow in on a cluster of people who were exhibiting symptoms.
“There are a few people who have contracted the virus in the organization,” Calkins says. “As soon as we find anyone who did contract it, we’ve gone to great pains to figure out where they’ve been, and to immediately address those places by emptying offices, deep cleaning, asking them to sequester themselves, asking others to sequester themselves. We’ve done that based on the data.”
In addition to self-reporting symptoms, employees can also answer questions about their productivity. Calkins hopes this element of the response app will help give employers more insight into how their employees are doing during the transition to working remotely—especially if they’re now tasked with taking care of and teaching kids who are home from closed schools. The productivity reporting, which is also voluntary, isn’t meant to be punitive—just to help managers figure out what their team is able to do as the crisis unfolds. “A manager can look across their teams, look at how healthy and productive their teams are, and how capable they are of doing work right now,” Calkins says.
Coworkers who need assistance can enter requests for aid through the app, which will match them with employees who have volunteered to help. Calkins says that once he announced the volunteering feature internally, 79 Appian employees signed up to help others immediately. And while there have been no requests for aid so far, he anticipates people will start needing assistance over the next few months.
Ultimately, Appian’s COVID-19 response application is designed to help large companies manage the crisis within their walls, both physical and virtual. More data and information about who’s sick and who needs help bring a small modicum of assurance, even as the virus’s horrifying spread continues.
“If we had better data, this would not be the crisis that it is,” Calkins says.