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COVID Protocols

An app that helps doctors make real-time decisions to treat COVID-19, in partnership with Brigham and Women’s

In early March, just as the outbreak took hold and hospitals around the world started overflowing with patients, the medical community faced a big problem: They didn’t know the best way to treat COVID-19. Best practices changed daily as we learned more about the Novel Coronavirus. And different circumstances called for entirely different approaches.

To keep up, doctors needed a reliable source of truth that evolved at the speed of the spread. And they needed it fast. It feels dramatic to say that lives depended on our work. But in this case, they really did.

What We Did

  • Strategy
  • UX design system
  • Web development
  • App development

What We Made

Website | iOS App


The New Yorker | Blog
Doctors at Brigham and Women's Hospital treating a patient for COVID-19.
Doctors at Brigham and Women's Hospital testing and treating patients for COVID-19.

A group of clinicians at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston (led by the indefatigable Dr. C. Lee Cohen) saw the pandemic unfolding and thought, “We’ve seen this before.” They had helped make life-saving information available for another emergent virus, Ebola.

Drawing on that experience, Dr. Cohen synthesized the treatment protocols and started a public Google Doc where dozens of doctors collaborated on the knowledge base. It quickly became a hit — but success came with problems.

  1. The original document was frequently so crowded with visitors that it slowed to a crawl and crashed constantly.
  2. As knowledge accumulated, the document grew exponentially — making it nearly impossible for doctors to find the life-saving information they needed.

That’s when Upstatement connected with Dr. Cohen and volunteered to help. The clock was ticking, so we went right to work launching a reliable, searchable new website and following two weeks later with a companion app for iOS and Android.

Putting the user (in this case, doctors) first

We built COVID Protocols for a very specific audience. It’s for doctors by doctors. To make sure we understood their perspective, we immediately interviewed several physicians.

Those conversations confirmed an initial hunch: We needed to build on top of what was already working. Doctors didn’t have time to learn something new, which meant we couldn’t rely on a fancy content management system, even if it would save time. They needed to edit through Google Docs. We’d just have to build on top of it to deliver a super fast, easily searchable experience.

Our work with Covid Protocols won an honorable mention from Fast Company for World Changing Ideas and Innovation by Design

The new is lightning-quick and performs even behind the most stringent hospital VPNs. It’s optimized for mobile, where most healthcare professionals access the protocols. When a new batch of content is ready, an updated version of the site is built and deployed in under a minute.

Moving at the speed of the moment

Launching a website was the fastest way we could respond to the initial problem. But it didn’t solve for every scenario. At times, doctors need to access this information completely offline. And hospital VPNs are notoriously finicky, which could make the website inaccessible to some. Plus, doctors are just like the rest of us. They told us that they really like having an app to tap right there on their home screen.

To support these users, we immediately built companion apps for iOS and Android (yes, those are powered by Google Docs too). Working in the heat of the pandemic, we launched both the website and apps in less than a month.

The COVID crisis has highlighted how important it is for us to work together for the safety of everyone. Upstatement is proud to say that we met the moment on this and several other initiatives related to the virus (see below). Projects like this are dearest to us because they do real good in the world and put our core values into action.

There was massive urgency to get quality information out to the people saving lives. Upstatement designed an amazing product with lightning turn around that allowed us to edit with over 100 authors simultaneously.”

Dr. C. Lee Cohen Pulmonary and Critical-care Fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

What’s Next?

In addition to working with our partners at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, we’ve been lending our expertise to a few other COVID-19 related causes.

  • COVID SafePaths: A privacy-first contact tracing app that could help us flatten the curve and get back to normal. In association with MIT, Path Check Inc., and others. Read more about it here.
  • Zero: Think of it like Yelp for COVID safety. Find the local businesses that are doing the most to keep you safe. When you have to go out, do it with confidence. In association with many others. Download the app for iOS or Android

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