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Based in Atlanta, Vital was founded by Patzer, who also founded personal finance website Mint, and his brother-in-law Juston Schrager. Its symptom checker was designed to control the amount of people seeking treatment at the emergency room so that local hospital systems don’t become overwhelmed, according to Shaughnessy.
“[It’s] an enterprise product designed for [the] emergency room surge in general,” Shaughnessy said. “They shifted their whole team to do COVID checking because they’re founded by an emergency room doctor, an epidemiologist, and then a technologist, and when they wanted to add a diagnostic portion for COVID, they didn’t find anything in the market to do that.”
The Center for Disease Prevention and Control has a COVID-19 symptom checker on its website.
Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties are each paying $3,300 a month for Vital’s symptom checker, according to news outlet Oregon Live. Shaughnessy told BuzzFeed News that previous to these contracts, Vital has only worked with the Emory University Hospital system in Atlanta, which employs Schrager as an emergency room doctor.
Benjamin Diggles, a former Portland resident and co-founder of blockchain company Constellation Network, told BuzzFeed News he recommended Vital to Oregon public safety authorities after his friend, Portland Fire public information officer Rich Chatman, asked for advice on how to prevent 911 lines from becoming overburdened.
Diggles heard about Vital through a friend who was familiar with its role in Emory University’s hospital system, and purchased the c19oregon.com domain name, which hosts the symptom checker tool, and corresponding domain names for the remaining 49 states for a total of $547. He said that he would be willing to give them to Vital or state health authorities for free and that he had recommended Vital to public health and public safety officials in Colorado, Missouri, and California.