Big colleges and universities are among the most challenged in controlling the spread of the coronavirus.
Indianapolis-based Hc1.com, which makes software that helps health care organizations interpret data to personalize care and control costs, said it thinks it has a solution that will help with the challenge faced by colleges nationwide.
Campuses have young people coming in from various parts of the country and sometimes the world as well as several thousand staffers. The behavior of college-aged students isn’t always as cautious as school administrators would like. And predicting where the next hot spot on campus will be is proving more challenging than a graduate level physics course.
“We knew right away colleges were going to have a challenge,” said Hc1 CEO Brad Bostic, whose daughter is a sophomore at
Yale. “So we started developing this in March.”
Colleges ranging from the University of North Carolina and University of Notre Dame, which earlier this semester moved to online classes, to Indiana University, which has seen hundreds of its students living in fraternities and sororities being locked down in quarantine, are struggling mightily with communal spread of the virus.
The company’s new solution, Hc1 Workforce Advisor for Universities, is designed to help schools monitor students when they come onto campus, noting where they have come from, and the COVID-status of those origination locations.
But it also monitors the students—in real time—once they’re on campus—taking note of their virus testing status, if and when they had the virus and if they live in an area or been in contact with people who have contracted the coronavirus.
“Once students show up on campus, now they’re in your community, and school officials have to deal with the contact-tracing element. We’re the central nervous system that is connecting test results and reporting that out to the key people within the administration and student health network,” Bostic said.
But Hc1’s system is not just reactive.
“We have a systematic approach saying who should be tested and when they should be tested,” Bostic said, adding the Hc1 platform can predict outbreaks and hot spots weeks before other major detection and monitoring systems being used. “This is a [solution] that is monitoring every single test and every single individual. This is real time, this is not three-weeks-old convoluted data.”
Bostic said his company’s new solution has the ability to break down data on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, which is critical to isolate where the next hot spot will be days before commonly used data sets can predict.
Hc1’s dashboard connects to 22,000 lab locations. That data is pulled into a big, secure platform that produces a “local risk index,” Bostic said.
“We’re focused on bringing together intelligent observations from lab data,” Bostic told IBJ.
Hc1 launched Hc1 Workforce Advisor for Universities in July and is currently working with a major university in the Southeast with “tens of thousands of students,” Bostic said. He said he isn’t yet at liberty to identify the school.
He is confident his firm will have a dozen or so sizable colleges and universities signed up to use the solution this semester and 30 to 40 by the end of this school year.
“We have 30 to 40 colleges in the pipeline,” Bostic said.
Bostic said the solution also has applications for large corporations, especially those bringing in employees from various and even far-flung locations.
College administrators are just now starting to understand the need for software like Hc1’s, Bostic said.
“I think there was a hope schools could manage this more manually, but as reality sets in they’re realizing it’s a lot more complicated than what they had hoped,” he said. “Tracking this sort of information in a spread sheet is very cumbersome. And that process is often too slow to control the spread.”
While multiple drugmakers are in advanced stages of testing for a coronavirus vaccine and medical experts are hopeful one will be ready for market in early 2021, Hc1 officials say the need for the company’s new solution will extend well beyond this school year.
“Earlier predictions were that by the summer this was going to get very quiet, and that’s not at all what’s happening in the United States,” said Dr. Peter Plantes, physician executive at Hc1. “Hc1 brought this forward and there has been a lot of interest on campuses. It’s setting in that this virus is going to be with us for a while.”
“A lot of the models [concerning the coronavirus] that have been run are quite frightening,” said Dr. Erik Nelson, an epidemiologist and spatial analyst specializing in the study of spatial trends, variations, and patterns of disease.
“Some models have this running into 2024 with some serious nastiness well into 2022 due to our behaviors that allow this virus to feast,” added Nelson, an assistant professor at Indiana University. “I’m trying to be optimistic, but I’m pretty nervous how the virus will do within universities and businesses. I hope I’m wrong.”
Plantes said Hc1’s new solution would be just as effective for future flu, measles or other pandemics.
Bostic thinks Hc1’s new solutions could generate $20 million in recurring annual revenue within five years from college and university customers and more than $100 million when factoring in corporate customers using the solution.
“This [pandemic] has been a big wakeup call,” Bostic said. “I think we thought the U.S. was beyond a big health crisis like this. We now realize there’s real risk here. We realize we need to monitor this situation and if there’s another pathogen that emerges. … We have to have a system to sense and respond to these types of things.”
Hc1 is charging its college and university customers a fee based on the number of people they want monitored.
“The fee will be relatively small for universities, especially considering what’s at stake,” Bostic said. “We’re talking a cost to the schools of tens of dollars—maybe $50 or $60—per student annually. It’s very scalable and very affordable. It’s a no-brainer really.”