Samantha Sokol, a junior studying electrical engineering, is getting ready to head out the door for a lab on Arizona State University's Tempe campus, face covering on and sanitizer in her pocket.
ASU Sync offers her a hybrid learning experience, a blend of in-person and live online instruction, with her peers and faculty. Sokol is heading to her lab where her in-person classmates are taking social-distance precautions to converse with their instructor while remote students join via Zoom. Before she leaves, Sokol is reminded, via push notification from her ASU Mobile App, of a crucial step to keep herself and the ASU community healthy in the age of COVID-19: the ASU Daily Health Check.
“I think everybody has to do their part because we’re in uncharted waters,” Sokol said. The health check, requiring students, faculty and staff to self-report their health status daily before coming to campus, prioritizes and promotes the health and well-being of the ASU community.
The ASU daily health check is a part of the university’s Community of Care, a greater effort to keep its members safe with further testing info, face coverings, social-distance guidelines and more. The health check is a process that caters to users and is enacting a behavioral change across campus by asking questions to help community members monitor their health through a website, the ASU Mobile App or phone calls to the Experience Center.
Creating a new normal together
Partners across the university knew that this process needed to be accessible for everyone. Starting in July 2020, UTO managed four cross-university workstreams — experience and communication, data and privacy, process and systems, and technical integration — consisting of individuals with varied skills and subject matter expertise, united for work on specific aspects to create the health check process.
Faculty member Heather Ross, who teaches jointly at the College of Global Futures and the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, joined the data and privacy workstream to contribute to the ethical viewpoint of the project. Ross worked with faculty members, lawyers, technical experts and others to determine the best approach to handle personal information of the ASU community.
“The group was very productive,” she said. “The right assemblage of voices were at the table.”
Those voices centered their discussions around the question, “What are the ethical implications?” Where those discussions ended up, Ross explained, was that only information deemed absolutely necessary was collected, which simply includes the answers to the self-reported data from the ASU community. “Everything the health check process was doing had to be in service of protecting public health,” she said.
Engineering the Community of Care
Bobby Gray, UTO director of digital transformation and a part of the daily health check leadership team, explained the four workstreams’ foci. As mentioned, the data and privacy group found the ethical gathering of data incredibly important from the start.
That sentiment was carried into conversations with the process and systems workstream, which was concerned with the day-to-day operation of the health check.
Gray posed the question, “From the medical side, what is the process we need to follow?”
Project planners joined with ASU Health Services teams to ensure that HIPAA guidelines were followed while crafting the questions asked of the ASU community.
Meanwhile, the technical integration workstream, made up of UTO engineers and developers, was reflecting the decisions made in all of these groups in the “final” (and continuously evolving) product. This team demonstrated constant collaboration supported by integrating Jira, the project management software, into real-time collaboration tool Slack for continuous testing and the quick updating of improvements.
Mike Sharkey, UTO director of data and analysis, oversees the health check’s reporting features, making sure that ASU’s Community of Care stays on target with reminder emails and password resets if the daily health check is missed. And those features are demonstrating their effectiveness, with over 4 million health checks completed since it was introduced in August.
“We know that the core purpose of this process was to do our part to keep everyone in the ASU community safe and healthy,” Sharkey said. “What's impressed me the most is the wonderful support and positivity from the vast majority of ASU folks I've interacted with.”
Crafting the best experience possible
“With something as high-profile as COVID, we knew how we communicated would be important,” Gray said.
That’s where the experience and communication group came into play, working on the messaging, visual experience and follow up information to make the far-reaching process as easy as possible.
It was understood that it is a difficult time in the era of COVID-19, and ASU’s Experience Center was ready to help. Dedicated to customer delight, the Experience Center quickly trained its service agents to be HIPAA-compliant and to be able to guide callers through the health check process. At its peak, the Experience Center was supporting more than 3,000 calls per day to help the community submit their health checks.
“We took a human-centered approach,” said Gigi Speaks, Experience Center director. “Words matter. How we communicate with our community matters. It was a process of providing a safe space for callers, and letting them know we are all in this together.”
After their conversations with Experience Center agents, she added, callers walked away with a better understanding of how to keep themselves and their ASU peers healthy.
The ASU Mobile App was also a crucial tool in bringing the ASU Sync experience to the university, and the hard work of many university staff and faculty members made it possible.
“There was an openness as we were working this out together,” Gray said. “There is no playbook to open a university during a pandemic. Sometimes we were caught in the nuances, but we realized we had to keep executing around the idea of doing good.”
Many moving parts had to come together very quickly to get the ASU daily health check up and running.
“We are very proud of the partnership across ASU teams to make this happen, and in collaboration, we are appreciative that the daily usage of this tool is doing its part to help remind our students, staff and faculty of the importance of their health as well as giving them tailored information about resources when they do exhibit symptoms,” said Chris Richardson, UTO deputy CIO of product ownership and leadership development.
Students and faculty recognized the results, and while there is of course no simple answer to COVID-19, the health check brought some comfort to its users.
“There were a lot of questions about it at the beginning,” Ross said. “But people understand that this is not a normal time. This is a time when, in the face of a global pandemic, we have to understand we are not individual islands. We have to understand that as we step through this experience, we have to do so with the greater good in mind.”
And Sokol, now leaving her technology-enabled lab, has a new way to stay mindful for herself and for the entire ASU community.
“It’s important to remember (that COVID-19) is not going away any time soon,” she said. “Sustaining that thought into the next semester and beyond is a very important and necessary thing. It feels good to know that (the daily health check) is holding us accountable.”
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