Guest Article by Survey Analytics Client Dr. Ajay Sethi
To track flu in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has partnerships with 3,000 clinics across the U.S. UW-Madison's University Health Services is one of the CDC sentinel sites. The CDC method relies on counting the number of students walking into UHS seeking healthcare for influenza-like illness. In 2010, Google showed that they could identify epidemic flu in the U.S. two weeks earlier than the CDC method. This is because people with flu-like symptoms are more likely to go online for health information before seeing a doctor.
If you’re sick, maybe you want to know if there’s something going around? And if you’re well, maybe you’d also want to know if something is going around? Maybe that would encourage you to wash your hands a little longer or make an extra effort to get the flu shot. The 2010 Google study and the recent emergence of mHealth (medical or public health practice supported by mobile devices) were the main inspirations for creating OutSmart Flu. As the idea was shaping, doctoral student in Population Health Sciences at UW Madison Christine Muganda explored and developed important research questions to advance the fields of mHealth and flu surveillance.
We setup our surveys and worked with our Account Manager Greg Bender to develop and customize SurveySwipe to be our own white labeled app. We also took advantage of the points system built in to the Survey Analtyics platform, which was perfect for the first year of the OutSmart Flu initiative.
Not everyone uses health-related apps regularly, if at all, after downloading them. OutSmart Flu utilizes the points system to incentivize users to use the app frequently; whether or not symptoms are being experienced, users are able to submit a report.
Christine Muganda of OutSmart Flu
Population Health Sciences Doctoral Student at UW Madison
At UW-Madison, we are working with researchers and practitioners from University Health Services, Medicine, Population Health Sciences, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. We also worked with students to help develop and test the OutSmart Flu app and to help shape the broader initiative. Muganda has also assembled a group of student volunteers to help promote the OutSmart Flu initiative on campus.
The data collected throughout the 2013-14 school year will be published and available on our website. We will be comparing findings from OutSmart Flu with University Health Services records on campus flu activity at UW Madison. From there, we can determine if the smartphone app and the power of social action is a faster way to track and monitor influenza. To join OutSmart Flu or to learn more please visit www.outsmartflu.org, follow @OutSmartFlu on Twitter or check out the Facebook page here.
About the Author
Ajay is an Associate Professor at UW Madison in Population Health Sciences. He is an infectious disease epidemiologist and global health researcher He began his research career working in the area of HIV/AIDS and has since expanded his interests to mHealth strategies for monitoring health and disease prevention. He enjoys thinking about and, if fortunate, solving problems; photography, bicycling and kayaking.