Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Disease Surveillance Apps for Cell Phones

Recent technological advances such as the Foldscope microscope will improve on-the-ground disease surveillance.[1]  The ubiquity of cell phones, even in remote locations, may provide another advance in data surveillance and monitoring of disease outbreaks. In an open access article in  the Online Journal of Public Health Informatics, researchers present a framework for data collections forms and apps for cell phones that could be used for real time epidemiological analysis.[2] They note that cell phones currently do not have the processing power for large data sets and that uploading the compiled data to cloud servers for epidemiological analysis and interpretation will be necessary.

The authors make several suggestions regarding the use of Android as an open source platform and testing existing apps suitable for epidemiological data collection and analysis. They conclude with a “proof of concept” application of a collection form for influenza cases, attempting to distinguish influenza from other forms of virus infection. While the influenza form may not be sufficient to differentiate influenza-like infections, it does provide a starting point for using cell phones for more sophisticated disease surveillance and monitoring in the future. 


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