Boston Children’s Hospital has created a medical app called Feverprints to encourage the public to sign up for a study that measures individual variations in body temperature. The hospital explains the rationale this way: “Better understandings of how body temperature varies between individuals and identification of disease fever patterns (“feverprints”) could allow doctors to make faster, more accurate diagnoses. With the data from this study, we hope to improve our ability to determine the cause of fevers.”
Investigations like this are part of a much larger move toward personalized or precision medicine. The federal government is investing in this new approach through its Precision Medicine Initiative, a $215 million project outlined in President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address. By collecting data on metabolic, physiological, biochemical, psychosocial, and genetic variability, the Initiative hopes to provide clinicians with the data needed to refine their diagnostic reasoning and tailor their treatment protocols.
The Boston Children’s Hospital study requires participants to initially sign a consent form, and then regularly take their own temperature and answer questions about their health. Subjects who have an iPhone-connected thermometer will have an advantage because it will let them automatically upload their readings to the medical app.
In order to participate in the study, children and adults must be living in the United States and have access to an iPhone and thermometer. Children under 18 years old will need parental permission to get involved in the experiment. The research project will be conducted by Boston Children’s Hospital in conjunction with Harvard Medical School.
The researchers were quick to point out that privacy and security are top priorities for the project. The data will be stored in a secure database and all the information will be anonymous. Personal identity information such as one’s name will not leave the phone.