Rocket Insights is helping the PathCheck Foundation on its global mission to contain the pandemic caused by COVID-19 by building a foundational public health technology platform and mobile apps that make digital contact tracing, case management, epidemiological information collection and citizen communication easier and faster.
Design & Technology
Product Design & Development
PathCheck Foundation was spun out of MIT in March 2020 to build digital solutions to contain COVID-19 and revitalize the economy, while protecting individual privacy and liberty. With 1,800 volunteers and a large core team of technology and public health professionals, PathCheck supports the Google Apple Exposure Notification system and a range of other technologies to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Teams in seven U.S. states and countries are implementing PathCheck technology to create exposure notification mobile apps for their communities, including Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Cyprus.
PathCheck believes the future of digital public health will include a wide array of mobile apps, sensors, technologies, data streams, and AI. All deployed in ways that protect the privacy and liberty of individuals. These capabilities will be used to prevent new pandemics, deliver public health interventions for a wide range of health issues, and enable the development of new diagnostics and treatments that result in a healthier world.
The mass adoption of a foundational public health technology platform that includes mobile touchpoints on every smartphone in the world is key to containing the pandemic. That technology platform will include exposure notification, digitally augmented contact tracing, case management, epidemiological information collection and citizen communication. This requires building apps that can track the movement of individuals via their phones and send notifications to those who have come near a patient with the virus.
PathCheck came to Rocket Insights for help in building out this platform on a tight timeline. The foundation needed an engineering and product team to come on board quickly, help build out the product strategy and start building and rolling out the product itself. We quickly brought together Rocket folks across product, engineering, design and QA and got to work.
We spent the first few weeks working with PathCheck team members spread around the world, many of whom were volunteers. This interplay created an interesting dynamic as we worked with both full-time PathCheck employees and volunteers with varying skillsets, time zones, and varying availability. We quickly partnered with both their engineering team and product team to deliver on the immediate needs of the public health authorities deploying the app.
On the design side, we explored solutions to broad COVID-related jobs-to-be-done that revolved around empowering citizens to regain agency in the time of the virus. This was challenging though, as we were not only juggling what we considered core features to the product, but also, how these features would be implemented across different public health authorities.
We also took this time to help the team at PathCheck to establish underlying processes for how to run their own product, design, and engineering organizations. Key parts of the project had to be defined, including the API spec for the web and mobile apps to be able to talk to each other, and spinning up a proof of concept for the exposure notification app.
From there, we moved from technical requirements and proof of concepts into building and shipping apps to help PathCheck fight the pandemic.
We first built an app for digital contact tracing using privacy-preserving GPS data. Then we built a second, separate app for exposure notification using the Google Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) framework. With GAEN, the app uses Bluetooth to anonymously and securely identify when phones have been near each other and potential COVID-19 exposures have occurred. These capabilities are entirely optional and privacy preserving. Individuals can choose whether or not they want to participate. These solutions enable communities to work together to slow the spread of COVID-19, and it complements other public health strategies such as social distancing, masks, testing and manual contact tracing.
These exposure notification apps are currently in pilot or launched in two European countries, and 4 states / territories in the U.S.
Exposure notification is quickly becoming a feature of digital pandemic response. Rocket is continuing to support PathCheck in building more features into the system that supports the full spectrum of digital pandemic response needs. This includes leveraging our experience in developing the PathCheck open source exposure notification app to help other states, governments and countries implement it within their communities.
We are continuing to build out configuration options to support the varying containment strategies that exist amongst different public health authorities. Containment strategies can vary based on the rate at which the virus is spreading in a particular locale, the availability of testing, etc. Thus, the “post-exposure-notification” UX (the screens a user interacts with in the app after receiving notification of a possible exposure) need to be modularized and configurable by jurisdiction. We are in the process of building configurations including directing users to 1) get tested and guide them to “Find a Nearby Test Center”, 2) submit their phone number to request a Contact Tracer call back or 3) complete a short questionnaire to determine if they have symptoms and should take appropriate medical action. We are also developing features that encourage habit formation around tracking how app users feel each day and what, if any, symptoms they may be experiencing. And, we are building configurator tools to enable public health authorities to name and customize their respective apps and provide jurisdiction-specific links and information to users.
Lastly, we are currently working to define, and validate through research, a set of data dashboards for public health authorities to track the adoption of the mobile app and to analyze the distribution of exposure notifications to better understand how the virus may be spreading.