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What are the new findings?
A simple web-based mobile application to estimate risk of COVID-19 transmission is feasible and acceptable among the US public.
Transmission risk can be estimated for app users based on local prevalence of disease, type of activity and mitigation measures employed, without collecting personal health information.
How might it impact on healthcare in the future?
Health apps that are free, publicly available, and incorporate evidence-based research could reduce COVID-19 fatigue and safety measure compliance by allowing individuals to make their own risk assessments and enjoy low-risk activities safely.
Social media may be a useful tool to obtain early user feedback and promote health tools during a public health emergency.
The transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 are complex. They depend on factors that enhance or protect against fomite, large droplet and aerosol transmission, as well as local prevalence of disease. The public face challenges in understanding and making educated decisions about daily activities, prompting perspective pieces such as ‘We’ve been left to calculate our virus risk on our own. We’re terrible at it.’1 Mobile apps could play an important role in helping individuals understand infection risk from everyday activities. Current COVID-19 risk apps range from predictive models estimating the risk of critical illness, to symptom checkers and workplace guides.
Here we present the development and implementation of MyCOVIDRisk app, intended to both inform Americans of the risk incurred when engaging in different activities and to guide on risk-reduction measures. Our objective was to create a tool that was freely accessible to the public, incorporated up-to-date information on local disease prevalence2 and helped people easily understand how to reduce risk without divulging personal information. The hypothesis was that if individuals could continue to engage in enjoyable low-risk activities, we could reduce community transmission while also minimising anxiety, isolation and so-called pandemic fatigue.
The idea of MyCOVIDRisk was conceived in July 2020 …
EMG and CSB are joint first authors.
EMG and CSB contributed equally.
Contributors MLR and EMG, researchers and emergency medicine physicians associated with Brown University, are both co-creators of the MyCOVIDRisk app. They both equally shared in the ideation, development and dissemination of this innovative digital health tool, and assisted in writing this paper. EMG and MLR co-lead the creation and refinement of the risk assessment calculator. CSB, a senior research assistant at the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health as well as the project coordinator for the MyCOVIDRisk app, assisted in the design, development and dissemination of the tool, co-led the writing of the paper and assisted with analysis. SP, a medical student at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, performed the data analytics and assisted in writing. All authors contributed intellectually to the content of the paper and reviewed and edited the final manuscript.
Funding This publication was made possible by the National Institute on Aging (K76AG059983), the Brown Physicians Academic Assessment Research Award (PI: EMG), the Warren Alpert Endowed Professorship of Emergency Medicine (MLR) and the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health.
Competing interests EMG reports grants from the National Institute on Aging (K76AG059983) and the Brown Physicians Academic Assessment Research Award (PI: EMG) during the conduct of the study. MLR reports funding from the Warren Alpert Endowed Professorship of Emergency Medicine and the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health during the conduct of the study.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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