Microsoft, UnitedHealth Group launch COVID-19 app for returning remote workers

Microsoft and UnitedHealth Group partnered to launch a new return-to-workplace protocol and COVID-19 symptom screening tool within an app for organizations returning employees from remote work.

The protocol, dubbed ProtectWell, combines CDC guidelines with UnitedHealth Group's data analytics capabilities and Microsoft's technology to safely return individuals to the workplace. It is powered by Microsoft Azure, AI and analytics solutions, and includes the company's Healthcare Bot service as well to triage users with COVID-19. However, Microsoft will not have access to identifiable information shared in the app.

The app also provides a screening tool designed for everyday use that asks users about COVID-19 symptoms or exposure and directs users to COVID-19 testing. It also reports the test results directly to employers. UnitedHealth Group and employers manage the healthcare information, according to a joint news release from UnitedHealth Group and Microsoft.

UnitedHealth Group has already implemented ProtectWell with its front-line healthcare workers and is expanding the tool across its business. Microsoft also plans to deploy the tool with its U.S.-based employees. While other tech companies, such as Twitter, have told employees that they can permanently work from home, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is not moving in that direction.

He told the New York Times that while more meetings start on time and productivity has increased, there are aspects of in-person interactions that are challenging to replicate virtually. He said, "What I miss is when you walk into a physical meeting, you are talking to the person that is next to you, you're able to connect with them for two minutes before and after," which is part of the critical soft skills for managing and mentoring.

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