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Preventing the spread of COVID-19 at the places you go to every day could become easier thanks to a new software. It’s called SneezSafe, and it was developed by medical professionals in partnership with business executives and technology experts. 

SneezSafe can be used by healthcare providers, residential care facilities, businesses, universities and more.

The web-based platform allows facilities to push out a questionnaire to people directly to someone’s phone through a text message, asking if they have experienced any COVID-19 symptoms.

“The reality is, what the employers and the employees need to know is, ‘Am I good to go to work today or not?’ and they need to know now, not later, not with an appointment at 2 o’clock. I need to know now,” Dr. Bill Satterwhite said.

Dr. Satterwhite is a chief wellness officer at Wake Forest Baptist Health.

Once a person fills out the survey, they either get cleared to head to work or they will get a notification that helps connect them with medical care, and that can vary depending on the severity of a person’s symptoms.

“So one of the goals is to say how can we as an employer stop infected people or potentially infected people from entering the workplace and then sharing with all of their coworkers. So it’s very useful really almost as a canary in a coal mine, saying, ‘Whoa, whoa, we need to stop and evaluate before this person actually comes on site.’ They might be fine, but we want to make sure they’re not bringing COVID-19 and spreading it to the workforce, shutting down our operations, taking it back home to their neighborhood, and there it goes,” Dr. Satterwhite said.

The facility operators will get a report card of the surveys. They don’t release a person’s medical information, but they will notify the employer if someone needed follow-up medical care. The medical care also is customizable for the different entities. This is helpful because it can help ensure clearance for work quicker in some cases. 

“This is where this particular platform is unique because it lets the employer decide who is that person, is it an occupational health nurse that works of the employer, is it a certain clinic, is it a triage nurse system. Sometimes it’s us, Wake Forest Baptist Health, sometimes it’s not, but it really lets them customize that in a way that works for them,” he said.

The program has been out for about two weeks now, and already multiple businesses, a health care provider and a university have implemented the software.

“One of the things that employees fear most of going back to work is the context they are going into is not going to be safe for them, either because of their colleagues or the customers they’re going to be serving, but especially their colleagues because that’s who they are going to be spending the most time with. So being able to ensure all of the employees, we are trying to keep this a safe and healthy place of you to come into work,” Dr. Satterwhite said.

The other goal is this could potentially prevent a hotspot or help target resources where they are needed the most. 

“So if you can find hotspots, which you’ve noticed is how pandemics spread, in a church, in a neighborhood, in a community, then it means those resources can be shifted from places of low need, to places of high need like hotspot. It’s very helpful in that sense to say wow, this is the zip code where we need all the testing to be happening and these others maybe we don’t,” he said.

Another important aspect of the survey is the potential to help on a national scale.

“One of the unique options that’s available, it’s not required, but it’s an option available is for companies and individuals within companies to elect to participate in the big national community research community partnership that Wake Forest is leading that relates to trying to figure out with COVID-19, ‘symptom surveillance’ we call it. Then things like set antibody testing that happens for people enrolled in the study to try on the bigger scene, the national scene, figure out what is happening with this infection,” he said.

There’s already more than 18,000 people who have participated in that study so far, and the goal is to reach 500,000 people from diverse backgrounds and locations. 

The overall goal is this simple questionnaire can help keep you safe and healthy in the places you frequent most.

“It’s just really designed around the idea of groups, we live in groups, we live in communities. And so any type of organization or entity can say we are all part of one collective, it could be a church, it could be a university, it can be workplace or a newsroom, and say this is the group that we are with and we are all going to work in keeping a safe environment together,” he said.