CovidWatcher app provides real-time information on hot spots while protecting privacy in compliance with HIPAA regulations
LAFAYETTE, Colo. — Cardinal Peak, a full-service engineering firm specializing in hardware, embedded software, cloud and mobile product development, has donated engineering services to Columbia University to support the school’s effort to develop CovidWatcher, a research tool for collecting and distributing COVID-19 outbreak data.
“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.”
The CovidWatcher mobile app surveys users about their exposure to the virus, symptoms, access to medical care and how restrictions impact their daily life. The information gathered through the app tracks the spread of COVID-19, helping cities, hospitals and communities respond to the pandemic. CovidWatcher provides real-time information on hot spots to aid in resource deployment and surge capacity planning. The app already has a rating of 4.7 stars on iOS (out of five) and is now available for Android.
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 app works by conducting daily and weekly surveys to collect information about user health, emotional well-being and activities, including employment status, social distancing and resource needs. The answers are analyzed by data science researchers at Columbia, contributing to insights through online, interactive maps that visualize in an anonymous and aggregated way the novel virus’ spread in different neighborhoods and communities over time. The app rollout began in New York City and is now expanding to other areas.
“Our frontline workers in the hospital, in city government and at the corner market are facing unprecedented dangers every day,” said Nicholas Tatonetti, Ph.D., an associate professor of biomedical informatics at Columbia University. “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.”
- Security — Unlike some proposed technology solutions, information is private and secure, following HIPAA regulations. Personally identifiable information (PII) is kept separate from survey responses.
- Robust functionality — The iOS and Android mobile apps include geofencing location data and the ability to anonymously link health monitoring tools.
- Citizen science — The citizen information gathered helps hospitals predict soon-to-be hotspots by monitoring symptoms and exposure, supporting short-term resource allocation to inform stay-at-home orders and keep our vulnerable citizens healthy.