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Researchers and clinicians enlisted Google’s help to build a mobile app that helps frontline health care workers monitor their mental wellbeing and seek help if indicated. Heroes Health is available to download now for iOS and Android.

While depression and anxiety were already common among frontline workers prior to COVID-19, numerous reports have shone a light on growing mental anguish across the health care workforce during the global pandemic, with increased workload, lack of safety equipment, and exposure to traumatizing events taking their toll.

Heroes Health was the brainchild of Dr. Sam McLean, an emergency room physician at the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) School of Medicine. McLean survived COVID-19 himself, after passing the virus on to two of his family members (who also later recovered). The app was developed through collaboration between UNC and Google’s parent company Alphabet, which enabled voluntary support from engineers and product managers. Google Cloud provides the backend infrastructure to scale the service as more health care organizations join the program.

How it works

The Heroes Health app prompts workers to answer questions and track their mental health over time, while also pointing them toward resources for extra support if needed.

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Above: Heroes Health app

Questions cover topics such as whether the worker feels like they are reliving past stressful events or whether they feel nervous, anxious, or “on edge.”

Above: Heroes Health app: questions

It also delves into whether they feel they have sufficient protective equipment in the workplace, and delivers weekly reports that summarize how they’ve felt over the preceding seven days.

Above: Heroes Health: Summary report

The app is available for free to any individual health care worker in the U.S., but institutions that choose to deploy it across their organization can gain access to extra features, including weekly aggregate reports that can be sent directly to leadership. This way, hospitals and specific departments can see which staff members are feeling the most strain and allocate resources to counter that stress. For the initial launch, a number of hospitals have already signed up to the platform, including UNC, Cooper University Healthcare, Rhode Island Hospital, Brown University, Indiana University Health, and Jefferson Health.

It’s worth noting that the app only reports aggregate data for teams containing 10 or more people, as this helps safeguard participants’ anonymity. However, individual employees are invited to opt into organizational outreach, meaning that if they do report mental health issues, the relevant support team can proactively step in to help.

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