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Data Company Building Covid-19 Early Warning System

Apple smartwatch

(Fancycrave1, Pixabay)

4 June 2020. An initiative is underway to detect early signs of Covid-19 infections from individuals’ activity and sleep data collected with smartphones and wearable devices. The project is undertaken by health data analytics company Evidation Health in San Mateo, California, with support from Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Evidation Health analyzes data collected through fitness trackers and wellness apps to provide individuals with more insights into their own health, and health care companies and agencies with better population assessments for corporate and public health decision-making. Evidation says its Achievement platform, designed for online capture of personal health data for research. has 3.7 million members, residing in 32,000 U.S. zip codes, who earn points redeemable for cash or charitable contributions for taking part.

The company extracts data from the Achievement collection, with participants’ permission, for its Covid-19 Pulse program that as of mid-April has 185,000 participants. Covid-19 Pulse tracks attitudes toward and experiences during the pandemic, along with individuals’ health. And as reported by Science & Enterprise last month, Evidation is partnering with the New York City health department on a survey in the U.S. to gauge the mental health impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, enrolling 300,000 participants, age 18 and older, who report on physical and mental health symptoms.

In the new pilot project, Evidation is enrolling some 300 people considered at high risk for Covid-19 infections, including health care workers and other first responders. Using self-completed surveys and wearable devices, participants are asked to report de-identified activity and sleep pattern data, along with general health conditions, symptoms, and attitudes.

One likely result of the project is an algorithm that identifies early warning signs of Covid-19 infections from the data, to help individuals monitor their own symptoms and overall health. “This initiative,” says Evidation’s chief data scientist Luca Foschini in a company statement, “will use novel behavioral and physiological data to more effectively identify when and where people may contract Covid-19, and can potentially enable real-time interventions to limit spread and monitor outcomes.”

Evidation is collaborating on the project with 4YouandMe, a not-for profit group in Seattle that studies health outcomes from data produced by smartphones and wearable devices. In a paper published in the journal NPJ Digital Medicine in July 2019, researchers from the organization and University of Oxford describe how data from apps and wearable devices provide rich sources for studying effects of stress on health.

BARDA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is one of the project’s funders from BARDA’s Rapidly Deployable Capabilities program to identify and pilot near-term innovative solutions for Covid-19. The company says the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also supporting the project. No specific amounts from either source were disclosed, but 4YouandMe recently received $276,500 from the Gates Foundation for a study of stress and recovery among front line Covid-19 health care workers.

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