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Based in Atlanta, Vital was founded by Patzer — who also founded Mint, a personal finance website — and his brother-in-law Justin Schrager. Its symptom checker was designed to control the number of people seeking treatment in an 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 CDC 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 prior to these contracts, Vital had 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 cofounder of blockchain company Constellation Network, told BuzzFeed News he recommended Vital to Oregon public safety authorities after his friend, Rich Chatman, public information officer for Portland Fire & Rescue, 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. He 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 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.