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How technology can support the back to work transition

Mark Philpott, our CEO at NPH Group, writes about the role technology, including medtech, has helped people return to work. 

The past couple of years have been tough on all of us for a multitude of reasons, from illness (or worse) to entire industries coming to a halt, to redundancies, to learning how to manage COVID-19 in the workplace – which is still a challenge today.

Yes, our legal obligations have changed when it comes to testing for COVID-19 but, when it comes to keeping staff safe and healthy – especially in at-risk industries – this should remain a priority which means continuing to manage the risk of catching the virus.

As an occupational health and wellbeing business at our core, supporting staff is paramount. At the early stages of the pandemic a lot of existing customers were turning to us for support on how to tackle the changes that the pandemic brought such as the now accepted work from home culture. From these early consultations, it was clear that we were well placed to develop this offering, so we turned our attention to COVID-19 testing and complementary services, especially for travel businesses.

We already had an existing relationship with Newcastle International Airport and Leeds Bradford Airport so helping the travel industry get back on its feet became a priority.

We partnered with international healthcare companies such as BHA Medical and MDNA Life Sciences to ensure our supply chain was abundant and secure; and working collaboratively with our clients and partners, it soon became clear that the most effective way to mass test people was a technological solution, which prompted the creation of our NPH iMed app.

iMed, available on Android and Apple stores, is an end-to-end COVID-19 testing and monitoring solution that uses lateral flow and AI technology to make the process as seamless as possible.

For travellers, this meant that by using the app, their results were verified to them within a matter of minutes rather than days, using a one-time QR code, making the already stressful process of heading abroad in a pandemic, slightly easier to handle.

The app provides a step-by-step process for ease of use and there are three ways for users to submit their lateral flow results; they can self-submit using images, with image AI verification and there is a video submission feature.

The app is also integrated through an API to UKHSA via Test Manager, our web-based platform designed to help businesses stay legally compliant by reporting test results automatically to the Government every 30 minutes and within 24 hours of a test.

Both platforms are extremely secure given the clinical nature of the data stored. Test Manager can only be accessed via a username and password and other features include; automatic certificate creation when result is entered as well as an automatic email notification with the certificate attached.

This has proved invaluable within businesses such as Virgin Voyages as it stores and sorts results and keeps everyone safe as well as having the reporting and monitoring functions required to keep track of results and isolation periods for crew and staff.

We’ve worked with Virgin Voyages for a couple of years and recently were commissioned to test all 22,000 passengers and crew aboard its new vessel to enter British waters, Valiant Lady.

As the technology is customisable, it can be adjusted to meet the aims of the business. Virgin Voyages wanted a postal service whereby sailors could self-test in the comfort of their homes. It also didn’t want to reskin any of our branding, so everything stayed as NPH Group.

On the flip side, we are currently working with two other high-profile companies that have white labelled our product and have opted for a click and collect model from their locations, so they can manually see their staff testing, provide testing to their customers, and input the results there and then. That’s the beauty of the solution, it can be adapted to suit many different needs.

Of course, the medtech isn’t limited to the travel sector, many others are making use of it in education, retail, and manufacturing, with scope for retail and leisure venues.

With COVID-19 still being so new, we can’t possibly know what strains it has in store for us, and another lockdown could mark the end for certain businesses and possibly industries, look at P&O.

It is vital that we continue to test. It’s cost effective, it’s quick and easy, and most importantly, it helps stop the spread of COVID-19. We are working with many businesses who want to transition back to the office and testing remains an effective way to achieve that even with fully vaccinated staff. It’s about managing risk and maintaining productivity.

There’s a lot in the pipeline in terms of health screening which is one of our new and emerging pillars of care services, and now includes COVID-19 as standard. It’s a very exciting time to be working in healthcare, occupational health, and wellbeing.

Going forward, the NPH iMed app and Test Manager desktop platform are going to be used with lateral flow technology to also test for other diseases such as influenza, HIV, and tuberculosis.

We are currently finalising a deal with the Government in Zimbabwe to make this the main method of testing for said diseases across the country. This would be a huge change for Zimbabwe and how they currently health screen the public and will be a lot easier to not only identify the prevalence of disease but also identify at risk areas and groups where they can target the treatment of often fatal diseases.

The app was purposefully designed to be adaptable and to integrate with existing APIs. Furthermore, we are in BETA mode for online GP and healthcare professional consultations within the app, meaning that patients can access medical services without the need to visit a clinic.

In addition, we are expanding our fulfilment and logistics centres in Europe and the US to be able to handle even more demand for test kits and our supporting technology overseas.

Our only option is to now live with COVID-19, however, as responsible employers and service providers in all industries, we can mitigate risks by working together as an industry and leaning on technological solutions to keep our workers safe, healthy, and happy.