Monitoring COVID-19

A researcher from the College of Science, Health and Engineering has developed a COVID-19 app that allows people to record their contacts and symptoms

Australia is experiencing the force of COVID-19’s second wave. In Melbourne, Victoria, cases are currently tracking in the hundreds per day. People are on ventilators in ICU. Some have died. And we’re all reeling, because, just a few weeks ago, many thought the spread of the virus was relatively under control.

Now more than ever, contact tracing is critical in the fight against COVID-19. Identifying and managing those who have been exposed to the disease helps to prevent onward transmission.

Cyberpharmacist and digital health researcher, Dr Kevin Yap, and collaborator, Mr Qihuang Xie, have developed a “bottom up, proactive approach” to contact tracing: a web-app that enables individuals to keep a personal record of their close contacts and symptoms on a daily basis.

“Collecting accurate epidemiological data through contact tracing can help to manage this public health crisis,” says Yap. “But it is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. And it is vulnerable to memory recall biases. A person many not be able to accurately recall events that occurred 14 days ago.”

Yap and Xie’s COVID-19 Symptom Monitoring and Contact Tracking Record (CoV-SCR) offers another helping hand in the fight against the virus.

“The web-app allows users to keep a personal record of their close contacts and symptoms on a daily basis,” Yap explains. “They can record their temperature on a five-point severity scale, along with details of their travel and contact history over a 14-day period. The recorded information is then sent to their nominated email address.”

“It gives users a systematic and reliable way to monitor themselves and their families, analyse their daily activities and seek immediate medical attention, if necessary, rather than relying on memory,” he says. “If the need for contact tracing arises, healthcare professionals or contact tracing personnel can retrieve the relevant information with consent from the user.”

Users of CoV-SCR can also access updates on COVID-19, and evidence-based advice on how to maintain health and wellbeing during the pandemic.

And what about privacy? “A complete list of terms and conditions and the privacy policy are available on the web-app,” says Yap. “Disclosure of personal information through the web-app is at the discretion of the user. The data collected at the backend database will only be used for aggregate data analysis and educational purposes.”

“The recent surge in the number of cases worldwide indicates that we need to remain vigilant, adopt proven disease control measures and deploy a concerted multisectoral approach to contain spread of the virus,” he adds. “Our web-app supplements the current management strategies for COVID-19, while also enabling individuals to be more cognizant of their own risk of exposure to the virus.”

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