COVID-19 Roundtable Discussions
Dr. Sarma Velamuri, co-founder and CEO of medical data and A.I. company Luminare, joined members for this iteration of Executive Networks’ COVID-19 virtual roundtable series and provided a demonstration of his company’s COVID-19 tracking tool.
Thank you to all who participated. This document summarizes a call from July 16th. Some approaches may have since changed.
Apps and Tools to Track Employee Health:
- Luminare’s tracking tool: A special guest for the call and a transplant physician by training, Dr. Sarma Velamuri founded Luminare to help hospitals identify signs of sepsis in time for effective treatment—an essential tool in preventing hospital deaths. “We were working with CDC on our sepsis software when COVID hit,” Sarma explained. “With Microsoft and CDC’s help, we quickly modified our software to track SARS-COV-2.
Luminare’s app-less employee self-certification software debuted in March of 2020 and has quickly been adopted by a number of hospitals, health institutions and private employers. Sarma and his colleague Mike Gilbert walked members though the basics of the tool, which is designed to be used by employees each day before they leave home. After answering a specific set of questions, the software instructs the employee whether he or she needs to stay home, head into work and/or who to call.
The tool is designed to prevent sick and/or infectious individuals from coming to work and exposing others, as well as to ensure that employers are fulfilling their legal and ethical duties to keep their employees and customers safe.
- Tools in use in member companies: Several members are using tools functionally similar to Luminare’s—some developed in-house and others with vendors. One member company’s in-house tool for essential site workers is tied to each employee’s email address. “When employees arrive on site, but before they enter the building, they answer five questions and it turns their phone to red or yellow,” the member explained. “If yellow, they come in for a temperature scan.” The person scanning temperatures must then clear (or send home) the employee through the app. Each “check-in” expires after 16 hours, and the process must be repeated.
- Contact tracing and social distancing tools: One member company, whose essential employees are almost always working in environments where cell phone use and wifi are impossible or impractical, has outfitted its workers with wristbands that vibrate whenever two of them are within 6 feet. Employee temperatures are checked and logged daily before arriving at the worksites. The same company uses a similar technology with office workers, based on their employee badges.
Childcare and Home Office Needs
- Childcare a top concern: As one member put it, “Childcare is overshadowing everything right now. It’s an overwhelming challenge for employees. It’s one thing to look at work-from-home in crisis mode, but it’s different for the longer term.” One member company is providing non-exempt and customer-facing employees with children under the age of 11 with $100/day for up to 60 days for childcare. While well-received, the member acknowledged that the program will not be enough if schools near his company’s major headcount sites remain shuttered into 2021. Others have been reluctant to commit to new childcare offerings. “This thing could go on for two years,” a member noted. “We’re not eager to commit to anything that we cannot sustain for that long.”
- Home office financial support: Stipends for ongoing home office expenses, like home internet and cell phones, are seemingly less common now than they were at the outset of the crisis. Those on the call that are still providing monthly stipends said that they were considering suspending them because of cost, tax implications and market trends. “We’re now seeing more focus on reimbursing the setup costs for home offices,” one member said. Another member company on the line provides a one-time $600 stipend for home office setup. Several others reported that they are allowing their employees to bring monitors, chairs and other supplies from the office into their homes—and for at least one member company, this is a recent development.
- Home office in a box: One member company has offered non-exempt employees an array of “work from home packages,” wherein they can select a home office set up based on their needs. As the member explained, the impetus was to move away from a wide universe of potential reimbursements and toward a select pool of pre-approved equipment, while still offering some choice and customization.
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