You have a slight cough. Is that just the dry winter air, an oncoming cold, or . . . COVID-19? It’s easy to laugh off these self-assessments as paranoia, but the truth is that many people in the U.S. have found themselves sick, attempted to get tested for coronavirus, and been told that testing kits are nowhere to be found.
So if you’re not feeling well, should you go about your life as usual, or should you hole up to protect others from potentially getting infected—with a virus you might not even have? How can you be responsible during what could be a global pandemic?
Maybe a free app can help.
New research suggests that a survey, combined with artificial intelligence, could more quickly identify high-risk patients. The Division of Infectious Diseases in the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University proposes that people could fill out a simple web survey with personal information including their location, travel and contact history, symptoms, and socio-demographics. And then their mathematical model could crunch this data and evaluate people’s situations as anything from no-risk to high-risk of infection.
“The identification of the high-risk cases can then be quarantined earlier, thus decreasing the chance of spread,” the paper states. The paper also suggests that risk patients could even be automatically flagged to a local healthcare provider, who could coordinate quarantine or care.
Alongside the paper, Dr. Arni S.R. Srinivasa Rao, director of the Laboratory for Theory and Mathematical Modeling within the infectious disease program, has already developed an algorithm to assess coronavirus risk. And alongside a colleague in the medical school, he hopes to build an app immediately that could give people a way to self-assess their symptoms for no charge.
“We do not have a version at this second but have been working day and night for the conceptualization,” says Rao. “We are in touch with developers and cloud-based solution providers to make this app & AI system rapidly available for all.”
The details behind this developing project are admittedly thin, as demonstrated in the paper and our own discussions with Augusta University. And of course there’s no certainty that this app will correctly diagnose patients or predict the spread of a disease that we still know so little about. But it’s compelling to see that, during a time of global crisis, researchers are not just writing papers and sharing knowledge, but attempting to create usable tools for our society to deploy as quickly as possible. We’ll keep following updates on the project’s development.