With coronavirus concerns growing, telemedicine has been touted as a possible means of helping individuals remotely examine their health conditions. Now, researchers have developed a coronavirus app that, coupled with machine intelligence, could enable an individual to get an at-home risk assessment based on how they feel in about a minute, and direct those deemed at risk to the nearest definitive testing facility.
The researchers, from the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, report in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology the app could assist local and public health officials with real time information on emerging demographics of those most at risk for coronavirus so they can better target prevention and treatment initiatives.
"We wanted to help identify people who are at high risk for coronavirus, help expedite their access to screening and to medical care and reduce spread of this infectious disease," says Dr. Arni S.R. Srinivasa Rao, director of the Laboratory for Theory and Mathematical Modeling in the MCG Division of Infectious Diseases at Augusta University and the study's corresponding author.
Rao and co-author Dr. Jose Vazquez, chief of the MCG Division of Infectious Diseases, are working with developers to finalize the app, which should be available within a few weeks and will be free because it addresses a public health concern.
The app will ask individuals where they live; other demographics like gender, age and race; and about recent contact with an individual known to have coronavirus or who has traveled to areas, like Italy and China, with a relatively high incidence of the viral infection in the last 14 days.
In addition, the app will also ask about common symptoms of infection and their duration including fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sputum production, headache, diarrhea and pneumonia. It will also enable collection of similar information for those who live with the individual but who cannot fill out their own survey.
Artificial intelligence will then use an algorithm Rao developed to rapidly assess the individual's information, send them a risk assessment—no risk, minimal risk, moderate or high risk—and alert the nearest facility with testing ability that a health check is likely needed. If the patient is unable to travel, the nearest facility will be notified of the need for a mobile health check and possible remote testing.
Rao hopes the data collected from individuals will aid in the rapid and accurate identification of geographic regions where the virus is circulating, and assess the relative risk in that region so health care facilities and providers can better prepare resources that may be needed. It also will help investigators learn more about how the virus is spreading, said the investigators.
Once the app is ready, it will live on the augusta.edu website and likely in app stores on the iOS and Android platforms.
"We are trying to decrease the exposure of people who are sick to people who are not sick," says Vazquez. "We also want to ensure that people who are infected get a definitive diagnosis and get the supportive care they may need," he said.
The researchers hope this available method to assess an individual's risk will help quell any developing panic or undue concern over coronavirus.