Researchers from Ulster University’s Schools of Engineering and Computing have developed an app to check for COVID-19 symptoms and provide advice.
The app collects information, checks for symptoms, helps perform diagnostics and provides advice. Data from the app can also be used to aid contact tracing and inform policy and decision makers in their overall recovery strategy. A novel add-on to improve overall result accuracy is the ability to read an antibody test result that is performed in the home setting.
Led by Professors Jim McLaughlin and Chris Nugent, the Connected Health Innovation Centre Team project team used technology based on their Xprize Tricorder success in 2017 where they finished joint third in a global competition to address similar diagnostic solutions currently required to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The App is available to download for open access development purposes and the team have presented the App to local, national and international government bodies to demonstrate the new integrated concept of register, symptom check, diagnose (via lateral flow) and then contact track. The multimodal diagnostic algorithm improves the overall operating characteristics by increasing sensitivity and specificity. It is hoped the app will also form the basis of a new Ulster University led clinical trial on the use of integrated apps and antibody testing.
The app asks questions about the users’ age, gender, postcode, and involvement in the general flu vaccine programme. And checks for symptoms: fever, continuous cough, sore throat, muscle/joint pain, loss of sense of smell or taste, and exhaustion. The presence of any of these symptoms triggers additional questions: the duration of the symptoms, if there are difficulties in breathing, problems with the immune system, difficulty in doing normal activities, and if s/he lives with other people or not. Advice is then given accordingly depending on the severity of the symptoms and risk factors.
Clear instructions are provided, which were sourced from HSC NI and NICE guidelines. Emphasis is given in staying at home when possible and in severe cases hospitalisation procedures are detailed. The user can opt-in to send anonymous collected data to a server including current and historical GPS locations via the user’s smartphone.
The app is also capable of handling data from biomarkers tests such as RT-PCR tests (to test if you have the virus up to 14 days of infection) and antibody home tests (blood based to check if you have had the virus) such as low cost rapid Lateral Flow diagnostics systems.
Data from the app can be summarized within our cloud based viewer and then data can be alerted, trended and monitored for policymakers, decision makers and epidemiology reports which will aid the overall recovery strategy and eventual Exit.
The app also uses Bluetooth to exchange anonymous keys with nearby smartphones that have the app installed. These keys are saved in a server. Should one user report a positive result of the biomarker through the app, the users that exchanged keys are notified through their app. This can prompt users to look for testing for COVID-19.
Professor Jim McLaughlin, Head of School of Engineering at Ulster University commented:
“At Ulster University we are using our world-leading expertise in data analytics, diagnostics and software development to develop solutions to help in the global fight against COVID-19. Building our XPrize Tricorder platform, this app can inform both the public and policy makers. It can help users to monitor their symptoms and seek medical advice when necessary and it provides key data that policymakers can use to inform strategy.”
The app can be downloaded here: http://data2.nibec.ulster.ac.uk/chic/chic/inc.auth.php