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Creators vouch for HealthIQ tracking app

The men behind a Covid-19 tracking app appealed to the public to embrace the technology to help the island stay one step ahead of the coronavirus.

Lee McArthur and Gabriel Jones, who developed HealthIQ, said in an online question and answer session last week that even people without symptoms should submit their information on a regular basis to help paint an accurate picture of the island's status.

Mr McArthur, the chief executive of Flatts-based data analytics consultancy Sonic Intel, said that a minor symptom such as a runny nose may seem insignificant, but that experts could use the information to identify clusters and act to prevent spread of Covid-19.

He added an international study had found that crowdsourced statistics were 80 per cent accurate in identification of Covid-19 symptoms and another found a high correlation between symptom reports and test results in the same locations.

Mr McArthur said: “They were able to use that data to forecast up to four weeks ahead of time where the disease may spread.

“Epidemiologists in Bermuda and folks at the Bermuda Hospitals Board who are actively trying to defeat this disease, they can deploy resources in the island in advance of an outbreak if they understand that the elements of community health are deteriorating.

“From a political perspective, you can imagine how this might be able to help things like draft things like policies that matches where the disease is headed and not where it has been.”

Mr McArthur said that almost 7,000 people had made submissions to HealthIQ.

He added that, because the site collects information on entire households, statistics has been collected on more than one fifth of the population.

Mr McArthur said the Ministry of Health had adopted HealthIQ for several of its indicators used to measure Bermuda's progress in the fight against the coronavirus.

He added that accurate information was vital to help the Government make decisions about how quickly Bermuda could reopen.

Mr McArthur said users should submit updates if they developed any symptoms, or every 14 days if they had none.

Mr McArthur told the public: “The incubation period of this disease is as long as 14 days, so we would recommend updating your symptoms every 14 days if possible.

He added that people could also opt to add an e-mail or phone number, which would allow HealthIQ to send a reminder after two weeks.

Mr McArthur said privacy was taken seriously in the design of the app, so users did not have to submit details that could identify them.

He explained that when the app launched in May, it needed users to add a phone number, but that requirement had been removed.

Mr McArthur said: “You can come and report your health without sharing anything that actually identifies you at all.

“You share your age, your gender and the postcode you live in, but nothing that identifies you as an individual.”

He added: “The data that is collected, whether phone numbers and e-mails are provided or not, is under the strict control of the Bermuda Health Council, as is the access to it.

“That's to ensure that the data is used by the proper people for the right purpose.”

Mr Jones, a Bermudian computer science student at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, said he and Mr McArthur developed the Bermuda-specific symptom-tracking app in a conversation on social media website Reddit.

He added: “I had nothing but time as I was quarantined for two weeks and then the lockdown started the same day my quarantine ended.

“We got together thinking this would be a cool thing for Bermuda to help public health authorities get a leading indicator and solid data.”

Mr McArthur added that they decided to join forces with the Bermuda Health Council because their app should be run by a health authority.

He said: “This is the type of service that needs to be run by somebody like the Bermuda Health Council.

To submit information to HealthIQ, visit https://healthiq.bm/

Lee McArthur, administrator at CovidIQ (Photograph supplied)

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Published June 16, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated June 16, 2020 at 9:05 am)

Creators vouch for HealthIQ tracking app

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