Updated: March 16, 2020 5:55:29 pm
Verily’s website to determine whether a coronavirus screening test is required for a person living in the United States has now gone live, though it comes with its own set of limitations and appears to be more a pilot project, rather than a full fledged program. Verily is the life sciences and healthcare subsidiary owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, and earlier US President Donald Trump had hastily announced that they were working on a website to determine if the test was needed.
Later, the Google team had tweeted, “We are developing a tool to help triage individuals for Covid-19 testing. Verily is in the early stages of development, and planning to roll testing out in the Bay Area, with the hope of expanding more broadly over time.” Google CEO Sundar Pichai has also announced that Google will launch a separate website to provide up-to-date information about the novel coronavirus education and prevention. The site is a separate project from the testing site by Verily.
The Verily website for coronavirus test screening is live, but it does come with limited scale and scope. For one, the Project Baseline is limited to the state of California in the United States and will only be available to those living in two counties in the state. These are Santa Clara and San Mateo. The number of novel coronavirus cases in the US is close to 3200 plus cases with over 61 deaths being reported, and more testing is needed. Right now Verily does not appear to be the solution to speed up testing.
So what does the Verily Project Baseline website do?
The Verily website for Project Baseline says they are working with the state of California to try and expand access to COVID-19 screening and testing with a focus on areas with a high volume of known cases. But as pointed out this is limited in scope and does not extend to all California residents. The Verily website will let those who want to get a test done complete an online screener based on guidelines from public health officials and depending on the responses and testing appointments available, they will get to know if they qualify for a test.
So users will have to answer some questions on the website, and based on whether they qualify, they might get recommended for COVID-19 test.
Further, the program is focused on ensuring tests free of cost and enabling public health officials to target testing efforts. However, there is an eligibility criteria as well in order to get tested.
One, the person needs to be age 18 or older, they will have to be a US resident, and located in one of the counties where testing is currently available. They should be able to speak and read English as well. They also have to be willing to sign the COVID-19 Public Health authorization form.
The website also notes that the company is trying to “expand testing in every way” and may soon add “more testing sites and may expand eligibility criteria,” though it is not clear if and when this will happen.
What happens when someone signs up for Verily’s Project Baseline?
Project Baseline requires that the user who wants to be tested create a Google account or use an existing Google account to participate. They will have to fill a COVID permission form and sign a public health authorization form. Regarding the data collection, the website notes that the “data collected by Verily through the testing program will never be joined with your data stored in Google products without your explicit permission.”
The Verily website also notes that they will not “share any information with insurance or medical providers without the user’s consent.”
Once user signs up for the website, they will have to share some information about their health and symptoms based on guidelines from public health officials and if they are eligible, they will be tested for the virus. The results of the COVID-19 test will be sent via email, according to the website.
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What about the data collected as part of this? Where is it stored ?
Keep in mind a Google account is needed to access this Verily platform. According to the website, all information shared will be “stored in a secure, encrypted database.” But Verily staff who need to contact the users in order to schedule test will have “access to direct identification information”and this includes, name, address, email, etc.
Information shared via the Verily website will also be shared with “the health care professionals who collect your specimen, the clinical laboratory that processes your specimen, the California Department of Public Health, and potentially other federal, state, and local health authorities, and other entities that assist with the testing program,” says the website.
The information “may also be shared with certain service providers engaged to perform services on behalf of Verily, including Google, which Verily leverages for certain technology and services, including cloud services, security services, data storage, website hosting, and other support functions.”
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