As Canadians brace for flu season while simultaneously battling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, health is at the forefront of every one’s mind. For Dr. Peter Blecher, Chief Health Officer and Co-Founder of OPN and Melody Adhami, President and Co-Founder of OPN, the key to staying healthy is being proactive, not reactive.
OPN (pronounced “open”) is an app designed for the ultimate safety of shared spaces. Through active measures such as self assessments and technology that tracks your entrance and exit of a building, Adhami hopes the app can accelerate the opening of businesses and increase a user’s level of safety. More importantly, she hopes the app can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“It is a lot easier to attempt to keep the toothpaste in the tube, rather than try to get it back in after the tube has been stepped on,” said Adhami.
Following the guidelines of Public Health and backed by an advisory board full of medical professionals and business professionals alike, OPN can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, people taking the situation seriously is a major role in it being successful.
“We’ve done a relatively good job keeping our cases down and now with the start of school and flu season we need to be hyper vigilant in order to ensure we continue to move forward,” said Dr. Bleacher. “If people take bio-gating and contact tracing seriously it keeps us all safer.”
With the customized screening process, automatic logging and ability to contact trace with ease, technology like OPN is an easy way for businesses to increase safety and peace of mind.
For this week’s Entrepreneur of the Week spotlight, Bay Street Bull spoke with Melody Adhami and Dr. Peter Blecher, Co-Founders of OPN, about creating a safer future, technology’s role in the fight against COVID-19 and bringing OPN to life.
What is OPN, How did this application come to be what was the ah-ha moment as it were?
Melody Adhami: I mean a global pandemic and pretty much global shut down did the trick for us. We realized that the world can’t afford to shut down and that organizations needed tools to manage their workforce. OPN is a workforce/community management tool designed to accelerate our safe return back to our shared spaces so life and business can operate in the age of COVID-19 and other viral threats
A lot of companies are adopting hybrid working systems as we move into the fall and beyond stage 3, how does OPN make this safer for employees and easier for managers to monitor?
MA: The OPN app provides employers and organizations with a tool to be able to manage their workforce and their entry into their physical spaces. Our self-assessment tool and badging systems makes it easy for employees to provide notification on their health status and allow employers to capture data that can trace any positive cases and exposures. We offer live reporting about what is happening in their workforce at any given time. This isn’t just a reactive tool that enables more accurate contact tracing but also a proactive one that can be more preventative. You can think of it this way, it is a lot easier to attempt to keep the toothpaste in the tube, rather than try to get it back in after the tube has been stepped on.
OPN uses QR technology to track and monitor, how does this work?
MA: Our goal was to build a solution that mitigated the most amount of risk without compromising an individual’s privacy or security. QR codes enabled us to do just that. When a user enters or exits a space they scan themselves in and out. It’s incredibly easy and efficient and is no different from using a key to unlock or lock a door. This ensures that the only time our app runs on a user’s phone is when they are actively using the app. There are no location services or any other forms of data required. It’s kind on battery and gives us the accuracy we need to be effective.
A user simply has to self assess from home, be granted access to a space, and simply scan in when they arrive, and scan out when they leave; our app closes this loop and provides that information to the organization. That way if any contact tracing needs to be done, it’s simple and easy.
The app also houses internal health assessment capabilities, when designing this how did you ensure that the testing would be accurate and not mis-readable or alarmist?
Dr. Peter Blecher: Our app follows the guidance of Public Health and is customizable to each region and public health department in any country. Public Health generally advises that if anyone is symptomatic they should stay home. By asking people to “attest” in order to gain entry, we are helping communities practice bio-vigilance which is in the best interest of everybody at the moment.
The OPN app also uses a green (low risk), yellow (moderate risk) red (confirmed case) system. The only way to get a red badge is to inform the app that you have a confirmed case of Covid. Yellow simply means you have some risk of either being symptomatic, are in violation of government quarantine rules or have been around someone who has a confirmed case. If for whatever reason you are “yellow” whether through our app or not, it’s best to follow your organization’s recommended protocol
OPN is a very pandemic-focused application, how do you see it functioning beyond the pandemic?
PB: We are very excited about life beyond COVID-19 in general, but also for our application. While we started OPN as a response to COVID-19 we are still a start-up, and in the world of a start-up it’s often the case that companies don’t know who they are till they get their first customer. That is where we are. We have our first customers and we are helping solve first their most basic need (COVID-19) and then hopefully other ways that technology can make their lives easier.
There is a lot of room for error in the way that businesses are currently managing contact tracing. How does OPN eradicate those shortcomings?
MA: We are taking the manual out of their process and giving them a digital tool. So less paper, less fumbling, less error and more time savings. By giving the task to a ‘computer’, we take human error out of the equation. Also by simplifying the process, we get better compliance…so employees will actually do the scanning and not get tired of the paperwork.
As an entrepreneur, how do you manage delegating? OPN required a lot of insight from medical professionals to get off the ground. How did you manage finding the right people who held your perceived vision?
MA: Advisory Board. In addition to a founding team that includes medical professionals, we have created an advisory board with leading public health and business thinkers.
What do you think Canadian health officials need to do better at in the next coming months to get ahead of the second wave and what place do you think technology holds in limiting negative outcomes?
PB: Adopt technologies like OPN (partially joking). Technology is not the solution in and of itself, but it’s part of it. We’ve done a relatively good job keeping our cases down and now with the start of school and flu season we need to be hyper vigilant in order to ensure we continue to move forward. If people take bio-gating and contact tracing seriously it keeps us all safer. Technologies like OPN have a role in that.
When launching a company or business, what are three things an entrepreneur must start with in order to be successful?
MA: 1. A clear problem 2. A first customer 3. A passion for both a and b
Was there ever a time in your career where you experienced a setback or failure? How did you navigate this and how has that informed your career/ professional outlook going forward?
MA: I don’t know any entrepreneur who doesn’t face failure daily. And if anyone claims they don’t, they aren’t doing it right. They aren’t taking enough risk, aren’t failing and learning enough. I personally navigate failure with my “reset” button….that’s a good night’s sleep. Problems are just so much smaller the morning after sleep.
Was there anything I did not ask about OPN or your professional careers that you would like us to share with readers?
PB: Yes. As the OPN platform evolves, our next phase of development will include integrated testing capability through anonymized QR scans on the kits themselves, whereby enterprise users who self-attest at risk and are badged to ‘yellow’, will be able to rapidly obtain point-of-care workplace or off-site testing to either confirm infection, turning them ‘red’, or clearing them and returning them to ‘green’. This to us is the ultimate management tool while we wait for the vaccines to be safely released and rolled out (which could be a long while away).