In the face of Covid-19, health tech startup Evidation Health is leveraging their relationships with the 4-million people on their Achievement app, the “always on” stream of behavioral data these folks bring to the table via wearables, sensors, and surveys, and everything they’ve learned from years of studying and modeling flu outbreaks to examine the Covid-19 virus in the context of people’s everyday lives.
Evidation’s CEO, Deb Kilpatrick, and Sr. Data Scientist, Ernesto Ramirez, stop by to talk about their company’s efforts for large-scale, frequent symptom surveillance of Covid-19 to add new insights to our understanding of the pandemic and, possibly, even help with making predictions about its spread and severity.
The company is already publishing some of its findings in a weekly report called “Covid-19 Pulse” that is already gleaning insights from a 150,000+ person cohort asked to weigh-in specifically on what they’re doing and how their lives are changing as a result of the pandemic. What’s unique in Evidation’s spin is that they’re adding that critical data from “daily life” that is more or less missed by just looking at the data reported from those who’ve entered the hospital.
“Those folks that are presenting into the medical system — that’s not the full picture of what’s going on,” says Ramirez. “What we need to do is better understand, really, what’s going on at the community level to understand community spread, to understand surveillance efforts, to understand mitigation efforts that may or may not be having impact around the spread of Covid-19.”
In January we started asking ourselves, “How many people self-track?” It was an interesting question that stemmed from our discussion with Susannah Fox about the recent Pew report on Tracking for Health. Here’s a quick recap of the discussion so far.
The astute Brian Dolan of MobiHealthNews suggested that the Pew data on self-tracking for health seems to show constant – not growing – participation. According to Pew, in 2012 only 11% of adults track their health using mobile apps, up from 9% in 2011.
All this in the context of a massive increase in smartphone use. Pew data shows smartphone ownership rising 20% just in the last year, and this shows no signs of slowing down. Those smartphones are not just super-connected tweeting machines. They pack a variety of powerful sensors and technologies that can be used for self-tracking apps. We notice a lot of people using these, but our sample is skewed toward techies and scientists.
What is really going on in the bigger world? How many people are actually tracking?
A few weeks ago ABI, a market research firm, released a report on Wearable Computing Devices. According to the report there will be an estimated 485 million wearable computing devices shipped by 2018. Josh Flood, the analyst behind this report indicated that they estimated that 61% of all devices in wearable market are fitness or activity trackers. “Sports and fitness will continue to be the largest in shipments,” he mentioned “but we’ll start to see growth in other areas such as watches, cameras, and glasses.”
One just needs to venture into their local electronics retailer to see that self-tracking devices are becoming more widespread.
So why are our observations out of synch with the Pew numbers?