Mayo Clinic, Safe Health form new venture focused on connected diagnostics

Mayo Clinic Platform president Dr. John Halamka explains how a new digital health tool can be applied through the "five stages" of the COVID-19 pandemic by enabling on-demand testing, tracking of lab results and proof of vaccine administration.
By Mike Miliard
04:26 PM
Mayo Clinic - Rochester, Minnesota

Mayo Clinic and Safe Health Group on Monday announced their collaboration on a new venture known Safe Health Systems, which they say can enable commodity diagnostics at a mass scale and help reduce the cost of low-complexity care processes.

Launched as part of the Mayo Clinic Platform, the proprietary data platform, SAFE, can boost access to affordable treatment for common medical conditions, including COVID-19.

This venture, launched as part of the Mayo Clinic Platform, "will provide the suite of apps and services that universities, employers and organizations need to restart in-person activities and support new care models," said platform president Dr. John Halamka. 

The SAFE platform can help speed the deployment of custom digital health applications, enabling artificial intelligence-powered care automation and remote point of care diagnostics. 

As deployed for COVID-19 testing, the technology links patients, clinicians and test providers through a smartphone app called HealthCheck. Once vaccines become available, the app can support vaccine workflow and verification.

Beyond COVID-19, its initial focus is to support testing for sexually transmitted diseases, strep throat, urinary tract infections, flu, ear infection and other common conditions. Platform developers note that an absence of remote testing is a limiting factor for telehealth treatment of those and other low-complexity ailments.

In an appearance at HLTH VRTL 2020 Monday, Halamka explained how the SAFE platform can help navigation of what he calls the five stages of the pandemic: isolation, testing and contact tracing, pre-vaccine return to work or return to school, vaccine distribution, and the new post-pandemic normal.

"What are the software systems and functionality you need in each of those transitions? You can see that it will evolve over time," said Halamka.

"Imagine I woke up this morning and I have lost my sense of taste or smell. That's concerning. If I feel that I need a certain kind of test, it may very well be that I would reach out to a clinician. And the SHS app enables the easy connection of a patient with signs and symptoms to a physician who can review them and ensure the right test is ordered.

"That test may be an in-laboratory test. It could be an at-home gathered test or an at-home point-of-care test – all these different kinds of modalities are supported," he explained.

"And then, once a test result comes back, we have to take action based on signs and symptoms, based on the prevalence of infections in my community, based on my results and the accuracy of those results. Maybe I quarantine, maybe I don't. Maybe I get additional testing. So that workflow has to be supported. Mayo Clinic creates the algorithms around interpreting test results and then creating next actions."

If a patient recovers and tests negative, and a workplace or school needs a "trustable validation of that test," said Halamka, the application "creates a QR code and a whole workflow that will enable a trusted back to work or back or back to school passport to appear on the phone as a result of the test."

Beyond those applications, the app also incorporates software development tools for contact tracing workflow.

"And then we start to move into vaccines," he said. "So let's imagine over the next year, six different vaccines will be available. They'll have different target populations, different availability, different dosing. You'll need to understand which vaccine is right for you and how to get it. And the app will incorporate that logic.

"Once you have a vaccine, [it] should generate a passport," he added. "Given the vaccine and the timing of the vaccine, are you safe to travel? Are you safe to return to work? Are you likely to have immunity? And so the workflow of recording vaccines, displaying vaccines in a trustable manner, is also included in the app."

Halamka called the new collaboration a good example a "joint activity between an agile software developer, Safe Health Systems, and a trusted medical institution with clinical experience and data, Mayo Clinic, working together to create an end-to-end COVID-19 solution that covers all five stages as we go through the pandemic and its resolution."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
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(Photo courtesy ChristianaCare)

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