Now Everyone Can Have Access to Reliable Information and a Simple Screening Algorithm

On New Year’s Eve, the World Health Organization (WHO) was notified of an outbreak of pneumonia of unknown origin in Wuhan province, China. Within days, the outbreak had surpassed 500 people with multiple fatalities. Public health officials in China quickly tracked the index case to a “wet market” in Wuhan. By January 10th the virus was determined to be a novel coronavirus related to both SARS and MERS. Days later, evidence of person-to-person transmission was confirmed. Case reports and case series from the NEJM have demonstrated a doubling of the outbreak every 4.5 days and each case transmits the infection to 2.2 people. 

During the second half of January, the virus rapidly spread throughout mainland China and to numerous countries around the world, including the United States who reported the first case in Washington state. 

The WHO has declared a worldwide pandemic on March 11th and the United States a National Emergency on March 13th. 

The CDC has published helpful information for the public and medical health providers for identification, diagnosis, and recommended treatment of coronavirus cases. Previously, here at iMedicalApps, we highlighted the outstanding work of the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering creation of a mapping tool to provide real-time data on the coronavirus outbreak. The website has caused quite a stir in the media and featured by both medical professionals and the public alike. The website provides country, state/province level data of cases, fatalities, recoveries, rate of rise, and links to other coronavirus resources. More recently, we highlighted the work of the dedicated team of infectious disease providers at Johns Hopkins who developed their own coronavirus treatment guidelines. These guidelines were released as a new module in the excellent Relief Central App. Check out our review of the updated app and guidelines here

As the pandemic moved to the U.S., I looked for a dedicated coronavirus app. Apple came out in early March publicly stating they would only publish apps from public health and other reputable authorities. Apple took matters into their own hands and just released their COVID-19 Screening Tool app and website in conjunction with the CDC, FEMA, and the White House. The purpose of the app is to provide the public trusted information from reliable sources about COVID-19, who does/doesn’t need testing, and the basics of social distancing, hand-washing, etc. The app takes the CDC guidance on screening for COVID-19. It turns it into a simple questionnaire that guides patients to a “decision” and plan of care regarding testing, self-isolation, quarantine, when to seek medical care, etc. 

Evidence-based medicine

Apple with the help of the CDC, FEMA, and the White House has created an excellent expert-based screening tool app and website for patients, families, and providers to use. The app provides valuable information on who does/doesn’t need testing along with a wealth of additional information from reliable medical sources on social distancing, self-isolation, quarantine, hand-washing, and disinfection to the public who greatly needs this information. 

What providers would benefit from this App?

Patients, family members, students, residents, nurses, mid-levels, public health, primary care, emergency medicine, hospitalists, critical care providers, and any provider who takes care of coronavirus patients or their contacts.

  • Price
    • Free
  • Likes
    • Step-by-step screening questions based on current CDC guidance. 
    • Helpful subsections of the app including curated articles on Apple News, general info about COVID-19, testing, etc
    • Numerous hyperlinks to information from CDC, FEMA, etc. on COVID-19
    • Web-based version is available for those without an iOS device
  • Dislikes
    • Some of the screening questions lack adequate description/information
    • Screening results do not always include a recommendation on testing
    • Section on coronavirus testing lacks guidance on where to get tested
    • Not available for Android

Overall

The new COVID-19 Screening Tool app and website from Apple in conjunction with the CDC, FEMA, and the White House couldn’t come at a better time. As the pandemic sweeps across the country rapidly, patients need vital information from reliable sources. The app aids patients and their families in filling in the knowledge gap of who needs tested, how to social distance, who needs to self-isolate vs. quarantine, etc. I did see what could be construed as a bug or two in the app which hopefully will get quickly resolved. The app is easy to use and results are automatically saved for further reference or review by a healthcare provider. Although the app is not available for Android, there is a website with the identical information that can be accessed from any internet-connected device.

Overall Score

  • o 4.5 stars

User Interface

  • 4.5 stars

-Easy to navigate with ability to take screening for yourself or someone else and save the results to show to healthcare providers.

Multimedia Usage

  • 5.0 stars

The app has extensive hyperlinks to up to date information from CDC, FEMA, curated Apple News on COVID-19. 

Price

  • 5.0 stars

App is free.

Real-World Applicability

  • 4.5 stars

The Apple/CDC et al. COVID-19 Screening Tool app is a welcome addition during the pandemic. This app gives clear, expert guidance based on a few simple questions. The app would be improved if some of the questions had a “more information” section to ensure clarity for patient use. Finally, unclear why some scenarios give guidance on whether or not a test is indicated, but others don’t mention that in the “results”. Recommended.

Device Used For Review

o iPhone 11 Pro running iOS 13.3.1

Available for Download for iPhone and iPad. Not available for Android at this time. But there is a web version available for any internet platform.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.