How can you support the global pandemic response using your professional abilities? Are your skills readily applicable to what our local and global communities need right now? (Yes.)
Cardinal Peak Senior Engineer Dan Lisogurski wanted to help out, so he blasted his social media audience looking for opportunities to apply engineering talent to fight COVID-19. Dan was introduced to Nicholas Tatonetti, Ph.D., an associate professor of biomedical informatics at Columbia University. Columbia was developing a research tool for collecting and distributing COVID-19 outbreak data, helping to get limited supplies to where they are needed most.
“Our frontline workers in the hospital, in city government, and at the corner market are facing unprecedented dangers every day,” says Tatonetti. “CovidWatcher is a way for the rest of us to give back by providing data to help guide resources to the most important challenges facing our city.”
Cardinal Peak as Development Partner
Dan brought the opportunity to the attention of his teammates at Cardinal Peak, and a team was assembled to support this important project. Cardinal Peak CEO Mark Carrington was on board to support the effort, Solutions Director John Nichols worked with Nick to understand the requirements and Sean O’Neil, VP of engineering and application development, provided project management and oversaw the Android app development — all at no cost to Columbia University.
“We’re all in this fight together,” said Sean O’Neil, Cardinal Peak’s vice president of Application Engineering. “At Cardinal Peak, we strive to contribute to the health and well-being of the communities in which we live and work. When approached to assist, we jumped at the opportunity. CovidWatcher allows us to leverage our professional prowess to support the global pandemic response by developing the tools our community and the rest of the world needs right now.”
CovidWatcher Mobile App
The CovidWatcher mobile app has 4.7 stars on iOS and was recently released on Android. The app surveys users about their exposure, symptoms, access to medical care, and how the coronavirus and restrictions are impacting their daily life. The data is being used to track the spread of COVID-19, and the information gathered helps cities, hospitals and communities respond to the pandemic. The app provides real-time information on hot spots to aid in resource deployment and surge capacity planning.
How does the app work? There are daily and weekly surveys to collect information about your health, emotional well-being and activities, including your employment status, social distancing and resource needs. It includes interactive maps to visualize coronavirus’ evolution over time in different neighborhoods and communities.
Securing Personal Information
All information is private and secure, following HIPAA regulations. Personally identifiable information (PII) is kept separate from survey responses. Anyone over age 18 can anonymously complete the surveys via the web, but the iOS and Android mobile apps have more robust functionality, including geofencing location data and the ability to link health monitoring tools. There is no requirement to have COVID-19 symptoms to contribute. Additional surveys gather details specific to health care professionals.
Citizen Science: Collecting and Distributing Pandemic Data
As a collaboration among Columbia University’s Department of Biomedical Informatics, Department of Infectious Diseases, and the Urban and Social Policy Program at the School of International and Public Affairs, the purpose is to help hospitals predict soon-to-be hotspots by monitoring symptoms and exposure to support short-term resource allocation. The app rollout began in New York City and is expanding to other areas. The information gathered is needed by communities across the country to inform stay-at-home orders and keep our vulnerable citizens healthy.
“Watching out for COVID means watching out for each other,” the Apple app store description of CovidWatcher reminds us. By pulling together virtually and supporting our communities, we can have an impact greater than our current extended isolation implies.