Automated, Non-Touch, Workplace Health Screening – A Healthier Approach to Keeping COVID Contained

We all know the routine. Put on your mask. Identify yourself. Answer a few questions. Pump a few squirts of hand sanitizer. Get your temperature taken. Then and only then – presuming your temperature is in the “normal” range – can you proceed beyond the entry vestibule of the store, restaurant, office, or wherever you’re trying to go.

It’s a pain. We all agree. But the pain is relative. Isn’t the hassle of screening better than the alternative of no screening, meaning employees, visitors, and customers would have zero confidence in the health of the people they encountered inside? And if you dislike being a “screen-ee,” imagine how awful it would be to be a “screener,” getting up close and personal with so many people all day long.

Until COVID-19 is under control, and perhaps beyond, health screening is here to stay. However, person-to-person health screening is not. An automated solution can handle the entire process just as accurately and far more efficiently than human screeners. It can assist with contact tracing and follow-up. Plus, it eliminates the risk of an infected subject spreading the disease to the screening officer or vice-versa. Here’s what automated screening looks like:

Know Who Entered, or Who Tried to: Think about it. There’s no logical reason to have a live person collecting the identity and questioning the recent travel and contact history of those entering a place of business. An unmanned smart device can do the job just fine, allowing visitors to provide contact information and complete a short, email-delivered, or on-screen questionnaire. Just like in-person scenarios, the honor system is sufficient in many cases. In higher security scenarios, visitors might be required to present a photo ID to a digital camera to verify their identity.

Accurate Temperature Readings: You know those thermometer guns we’ve all had aimed at our foreheads? They actually do a pretty decent job of gauging temperature. The key is making sure they’re used correctly. Surprise, surprise – with human operators, that’s often not the case!  

Infrared thermometers shoot a thin, infrared wave that targets a specific point on a surface, like your forehead, and measures its temperature. For an accurate reading, the device should be positioned about six inches from the forehead and aimed straight-on so that the wave hits the forehead perpendicularly. With human screeners, such consistency is difficult to achieve. Our currently heightened germaphobia has screeners and screenees standing too far apart, while human height differentials cause the infrared wave to glance foreheads at inconsistent angles. Imagine a five-foot-tall screener aiming her gun at a six-foot-tall subject. You get the picture.

Now, imagine the thermometer being embedded within an unmanned screening system. Subjects are instructed to stand in front of the device and position their foreheads appropriately. With no human screener, subjects will be willing to get right up close and lined up straight, allowing the thermometer to do its job as accurately as possible. A green light indicates the subject is cleared to proceed. A red light requires them to step aside and wait for further instruction or personal assistance.

Contact Tracing: Suppose someone becomes ill after visiting your facility. They let you know. Now what? With an automated screening system in place, a log already exists of everyone who arrived at around the same time. And perhaps what time they left. If you’ve collected their phone numbers or email addresses, a message could be sent out that informs these individuals of their potential exposure. How easy is that?

Is All This Necessary? With vaccines becoming available, the light is finally visible at the end of the Coronavirus tunnel. However, medical experts suggest that it will be a long while before we can fully let down our guard. In the interim, business owners and facility managers wonder how important it is to require health screening at their facilities.

The answer is “very important.”

Identifying folks with fevers is helpful in a few ways. First of all, it may alert individuals, who otherwise feel fine, that they may, in fact, be sick – encouraging them to seek a COVID-19 test. Secondly, it reduces possible spread within the facility by preventing these individuals from entering. And finally, health screening extends benefits beyond our physical well-being to our psychological state-of-mind. When businesses implement such health screening procedures, it instills confidence among employees, customers, and visitors that the company cares is doing its part and has the public’s best interest at heart.

While temperature checks are hardly a fool-proof diagnostic tool for COVID-19, a fever is a common symptom of the virus. Yes, there are asymptomatic carriers. Yes, over the counter meds can temporarily reduce body temperature and mask a fever. But there are still plenty of people for whom a fever is an indication that they are ill – be it with COVID-19, the flu, or something else. Like many other aspects of business, we can’t let perfection be the enemy of the good when it comes to health screening. The efficacy of temperature screening can only take us so far. In that respect, we’ll settle for good. But automating this process, improving its consistent execution, speeding up contact tracing, and eliminating the close-up human-to-human interaction … all of this brings health screening much closer to the ideal. Plus, it’s so easy to do. What are you waiting for?

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