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Freeing up resources for the COVID-19 battle

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Developed by a Queen's-based startup, the world’s first socially intelligent staff scheduling cloud tool is being made accessible for free to enable new users.

A Queen’s University-based startup is contributing to the effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus and support the healthcare system facing increasing demands during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Mesh Scheduling Inc. recently announced it is waiving the monthly subscription fees to Mesh AI, the world’s first socially intelligent staff scheduling cloud tool, during the coronavirus pandemic.

In response to calls for help in battling the spread of the coronavirus, including from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mesh AI is being made accessible for free to enable new users to improve scheduling and communication. Initially developed as a scheduling and communication platform with a focus on the healthcare sector, Mesh AI can be applied to practically any workplace.

With support from Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation, Mesh Scheduling Inc. is led by Shahram Yousefi, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who’s research interests include applied algorithms and machine learning with applications to healthcare and 5G telecom and data storage. 

Dr. Yousefi, also the startup’s president and CEO, points out that COVID-19 is affecting the availability of healthcare workers in two main ways.

Firstly, as frontline staff contract the disease or get quarantined for safety reasons, they are no longer available to work. Secondly, staff need to work in entirely different modes with new teams, new responsibilities, and in most cases with prolonged shifts to support their units and help save patients' lives. Fatigue, stress, and anxiety lead to loss of productivity and burnout.

How is this done?

Mesh AI allows all staff to add their personal requests such as vacations and shift preferences directly into their mobile apps no matter when and where. It also allows them to easily withdraw from or swap shifts already planned in case of illness or changes in circumstances. Schedule administrators are able to create schedules for week-long or year-long (and everything in between) planning with a press of a button. The highly sophisticated Mesh auto-scheduling engine takes all the organization’s requirements to create shift assignments with near mathematical optimality. This same ‘intelligence’ also suggests best second in place when a shift needs to be reassigned to a new employee.

This is where Mesh AI can make a positive difference.

“MeshAI.io helps with better communication among staff, sharing their needs and limitations, and responding to last-minute staffing changes very efficiently,” Dr. Yousefi says.  “It saves a great deal of time and resources for administrators and decision-makers in assigning shifts and also dealing with change. The data, intelligence, and cloud software features we have built maximize productivity and minimize disruptions, costly errors, and cost. We love the fact that this is done while we also empower employees to have some level of control and agency when it comes to their demanding jobs and work-life conflicts.”

Mesh AI is already being used by a number of healthcare facilities in Canada, U.S., and as far away as Australia, with positive results in adaptability, communication and risk/loss management as teams respond to increasing demands.

“One very interesting risk management component we’ve seen with Mesh AI, with healthcare in particular, is that hospitals and clinics are using Mesh AI to keep a group or subgroup of staff together because they’re being exposed to COVID-19 patients and when they do further shift allocation they keep that group together so they minimize the number of people that are being exposed to COVID-19 and as such they are reducing the risk of losing more and more people to sickness and current team requirements,” Dr. Yousefi says.

Mesh AI is currently available through Public Works and Government Services Canada’s BuyandSell.gc.ca website.

Learn more about Mesh AI and MESH Scheduling Inc. at MeshAI.io.

Those interested in acquiring a free subscription to Mesh AI can apply online using this form.