Innovation Blog

How One HealthTech Startup Is Combating the Coronavirus


Buoy Health, a Boston-based startup and MassChallenge HealthTech 2019 alum, has developed an AI health assistant platform that helps consumers get real-time information about symptoms and triages them to the appropriate care.

With the ability to prevent the spread of misinformation and improve the quality of care for their consumers, Buoy is becoming the “front door for healthcare.”

In light of the coronavirus outbreak, the startup responded quickly by updating its AI algorithm to properly screen for coronavirus. Learn more about the work they are doing to combat the coronavirus:

What is the coronavirus, and what is happening to date?

The New Year kicked off with the outbreak of the coronavirus, Covid-19, which started in the Wuhan seafood wholesale market in China. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), coronavirus is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person.

Symptoms of coronavirus can include fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath. Although the virus originally was spread between animals, transmission can occur from person to person.

Since February 25, 2020, the outbreak has affected 80,000 people globally and resulted in over 2,000 deaths in mainland China, according to the Guardian. The spread of this unknown virus coupled with the search for a vaccine has resulted in the spread of misinformation and fear across the globe. Although the CDC has been inputting guidelines to identify at-risk patients, there are still many uncertainties around when the pandemic will end.

Although there have been some reported cases of the coronavirus within the US, the risk of getting the disease is currently low, according to the CDC. However, there has been an increase in social stigma towards Chinese or Asian-Americans, resulting in the loss of business for Chinese restaurants and global business, the New York Times reported.

Buoy Health collaborates with Boston Children’s Hospital to combat coronavirus

With the recent outbreak of the coronavirus in late January, misinformation and fear has been feeding the public health crisis around the world.


The Buoy team realized the unknown virus was causing fear and confusion in communities, and they decided to activate quickly by incorporating the CDC’s coronavirus guidelines into their existing AI platform and partner with Boston Children’s Hospital’s Health Maps tool, led by John Brownstein’s internal team to further predict potential disease spread.

Sandy Uwimana, Director of Customer Success at Buoy Health, shared more information about this collaboration and the Health Maps technology.

“Buoy sits at a unique moment in the healthcare journey, positioning us to generate data that very few, if any, other companies and government agencies can access. Together with Health Maps, a digital epidemiology tool developed by the Boston Children’s hospital team, we have the ability to better educate the masses on where the disease is, identify at-risk patients, and get patients to ER if necessary as quickly as possible so they can get the best care.”

James Lucey, Customer Success Associate at Buoy Health, shared his experience building the product with a quick turnaround. “When it comes to outbreaks of new illnesses like this strain of coronavirus, the data about severity, duration and symptom onset are critical to understanding and managing the response over time. It’s why we’ve gotten such interest from government agencies and researchers in partnership opportunities. It’s very difficult to create this dataset at scale, and to do so quickly.”

Boston is the breeding ground for healthcare innovation

Sandy Uwimana added that this collaboration was possible with Boston Children’s hospital because Boston is a nesting ground for healthcare innovation.

“Boston to me is the ‘Silicon Valley of healthcare’ because there is a real set of innovative companies right outside Buoy’s backyard. It’s incredible knowing that innovation can happen at such a fast pace, and that is what makes the Boston community great.”

John Brownstein, Chief Innovation Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, shared his thoughts on working with such an innovative company like Buoy Health.

“We have been working with Buoy for a number of years, and they are a great company because their team is hyper focused on its mission – they can put real resources together, build a product, and deliver great results.”

At MassChallenge HealthTech, we enjoy seeing collaborations between our startups and Champions to impact patient lives and innovate the healthcare industry, especially in the heart of Boston. We look forward to continuing to hear how Buoy is serving their consumers and creating massive impact.

Knowledge Resources about the coronavirus

Please refer to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website for the following information about coronavirus:

About Buoy Health 

Buoy Health is a health technology company that develops digital tools to help people from the moment they get sick start their care on the right foot. Founded in 2014 at the Harvard Innovation Laboratory in Boston, Mass., Buoy’s team of doctors, product designers, and software engineers developed its smart symptom checker, Buoy Assistant, in direct response to the downward spiral we’ve all faced when we attempt to self-diagnose symptoms online. The technology behind Buoy leverages artificial intelligence – powered by advanced machine learning and proprietary granular data – to resemble an exchange you would have with your favorite doctor – to provide consumers with a real-time, accurate analysis of their symptoms and to help them easily and quickly embark on the right path to getting better. For more information, please visit


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