The widespread use of various smartphone apps launched during the COVID-19 epidemic, especially contact-tracing applications, can be seen as a positive development. However, more research is needed to determine how these technologies can be refined for future use.
This was the main conclusion of a review paper published Biotechnology, nature The authors said that despite concerns about patient privacy and data protection, the apps were useful for general understanding of communication tracing, individual screening, and epidemics of outbreaks.
“While there have been successes and failures in each segment, the prevalence has been significantly improved by epidemiology and access to individual screening smartphone apps and accessory wearables,” the report noted.
The main advantages of smartphone-based app data include proximity to real-time results, and the ability to extrapolate data from large population groups. Applications that were created to track influenza before the epidemic were able to pivot COVID-19 tracking.
The use of apps for diagnosing potential COVID-19 symptoms could be improved in the future as smartphone cameras become more sophisticated. A standard diagnostic app should integrate the features found across the various apps currently on the market.
“To be accessible to an unprepared and underdeveloped population, it should be able to integrate data from any sensor, including less sophisticated mobile devices with limited features,” the report said.
Contact tracing, the most commonly used COVID-19-related smartphone app function, the paper cites as the most serious data privacy issue. The authors of the report believe that not only proximity but also local biometric, pathogen and environmental data should be considered to improve the effectiveness of contract-tracing apps in the future.
“The standard communication-tracing app will work in real time, protect data privacy, comply with local regulations, lead to workable and measurable results, stay on local devices to avoid bandwidth issues, and for public health purposes, no need to select.” The report recommended.
Why it matters
The ability of mobile apps to assist in the use, data collection and dissemination of more than six billion smartphones worldwide will be crucial going forward. Smartphones are already used to collect geolocation data and other types of data collected by users.
As the paper noted, however, key issues will be addressed on issues of data security and privacy, as well as the challenges of digital health illiteracy and structural inequality.
There are also indications that smartphone apps may be equipped with more advanced diagnostic functionality. A smartphone-based COVID-19-detection test from Australia showed high levels of accuracy, with COVID-19 found accurately in 92% of infected participants in clinical trials.
Also, the researchers found that a loop-mediated isothermal amplification-based approach combined with smartphone detection was able to test for COVID-19.
The use of mobile apps for vulnerable populations during epidemics or seasonal health events may have additional preventive use.
In August 2021, UK home-care provider Cera launched a flu-tracking and treatment app, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning for early diagnosis and rapid treatment of flu in the elderly population.
“The continued use of applications in digital infrastructure promises to provide an important tool for rigorous scrutiny of results in both ongoing outbreaks and future epidemics,” he said. Nature Biotechnology Mentioned in the report.