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One Medical wants to make sure you’re COVID-free before you go back to work

The primary care company is thinking about how it can use its technology to screen workers and ensure they’re well enough to go back to work.

One Medical wants to make sure you’re COVID-free before you go back to work
[Photos: courtesy of One Medical]
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One Medical, a membership-based primary care company, has worked with cities such as San Francisco and New York to expand its testing capabilities beyond its client base. Now, the company is thinking about the next phase of testing and how it can help people go back to work.

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“One of the other things that has really been transformative for One Medical because of the pandemic is thinking about our goal in getting people back to work and back to life and helping employers manage that process, helping governments have the data needed to make those decisions,” says Andrew Diamond, the chief medical officer at One Medical.

In April, One Medical opened up its COVID-19 care and testing capabilities to the general public. It subsequently developed outdoor testing sites open to the public in San Francisco, in partnership with Mayor London Breed and life sciences company Verily. In New York, the company worked with Mayor Bill de Blasio to open up five testing sites for the general public.

Diamond says that cities wanted to work with his company because of its technological infrastructure. By using the One Medical app, city officials could ensure that essential workers and particularly at-risk patients with symptoms could get tested first. One Medical required anyone seeking a test to sign up through its app, so the company could collect basic information about the person and their perceived illness. Then, it would schedule an appointment for them at one of its sites.

That technology will play a key role in the next phase of testing as some employees start going back to work. “It’s one thing to put some people in a parking lot and just collect specimens,” Diamond says. “It’s a whole other thing to actually tell all of those people what to do next—especially once we get into antibody testing.”

One Medical provides its services as an employee benefit to 7,000 companies. Diamond says his team is developing an in-app questionnaire for employees that will help screen workers for COVID-19 or other illnesses before they head into work. The survey will ask how they’re feeling, whether they’re experiencing any signs of illness, and if they’ve been exposed to somebody who might be sick.

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In some cases, the app will recommend those workers get tested either for COVID-19 or for the virus’s antibodies—signals that a person had the virus in the past. At that point, One Medical will determine whether or not a person is cleared to go back to work or not. Diamond says that One Medical is working on how exactly it will convey to employers that a person is too sick to work. Regardless, he says, all of the patient’s medical information will be protected by HIPAA.

One Medical will then provide any follow-up care required for the patient worker—even if that just means checking in. Diamond says the biggest challenge in returning to work will be figuring out how to deal with asymptomatic cases.

He says until there’s a vaccine, workplaces will have to make adjustments to how they conduct day-to-day operations.

“How do you design your workspace to maintain the right distances and not jam people into tiny conference rooms?”

About the author

Ruth Reader is a writer for Fast Company. She covers the intersection of health and technology.

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