CHAPEL HILL – Dr. Samuel McLean knows firsthand the great challenges COVID-19 workers are facing day in and day out.
Back in March, he, along with his wife, son and dog, contracted the virus. They recovered, but as practicing emergency physician at UNC Health in Chapel Hill, he realized more needed to be done to support frontline workers.
“I was experiencing all the stresses that first responders have — with worrying about getting infected and, much worse, infecting other people and seeing so much tragedy,” he said on NBC’s Today Show on Tuesday. “[There’s] also a lot of social isolation.”
So he decided to do something about it.
Enter the “Heroes Health” app, which he developed with the help UNC Institute for Trauma Recovery, Google Cloud and volunteers across Alphabet that tracks the mental health of frontline workers.
Operated by UNC School of Medicine, it’s HIPAA compliant and takes advantage of Google Cloud’s “robust security and privacy protections” to protect user data.
“The goal of the app is to give everyone the opportunity to check in on their mental health, and to link them up immediately with resources,” he said.
How it works is simple: the app delivers short mental health self-assessments via a survey each week, and evaluates symptoms in key domains such as sleep, stress, anxiety/worry, and sadness/depression. Workers can then view a summary report of their symptoms, and trends in their symptoms over time.
The app also provides links to immediate support and mental health resources, emphasizing free and low-cost services.
Healthcare organizations, meanwhile, can partner with the initiative and use the app to aggregate data and perform proactive worker outreach.
The Rockefeller Foundation has also been a key supporter. “Healthcare workers show up every day to battle COVID-19 and keep us all safe. It’s grueling work,” said Zia Khan Senior Vice President, Innovation, The Rockefeller Foundation, which has been a key supporter. “The Rockefeller Foundation, having supported public health innovations for over 100 years, is proud to join with Google and One Mind to support the UNC School of Medicine as they launch Heroes Health to extend mental health support to these frontline workers.”