Indiana University and rural health care providers are joining forces to track patient reports of COVID-19 symptoms, analyze the virus’s spread and help residents make informed health care decisions.
Software developer and data analyst David Tidd, doctoral student Kristina Mullis and associate professor Dr. Jon Macy in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington developed a tool in partnership with the IU Center for Rural Engagement and Southern Indiana Community Health Care that residents in Orange County and Crawford County, Indiana, can use to monitor their own symptoms and inform providers and public health officials of potential people infected with the novel coronavirus.
“Information is critical to both patients and providers,” said Dr. Yolanda Yoder, a family practitioner with Southern Indiana Community Health Care and adjunct clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the IU School of Medicine. “This tracking tool can enhance communication as we plan the best course of care for our patient, whether it’s education on early symptoms, advice about quarantine practices or decisions about medical interventions. And with limited testing available, the data we collect can give us an epidemiologic view into our rural communities during this pandemic, with a more comprehensive picture as we make decisions moving forward.”
The tool will provide a daily journal for patients, which can help medical teams determine the best care plan and speed up processes that could otherwise be stalled by lack of information. Residents of Orange and Crawford counties can use the online app or maintain a paper version, available from Southern Indiana Community Health Care, if internet is inaccessible.
“This tool empowers residents to share their own health observations, thereby informing public health decisions and research as we address this pandemic locally and statewide,” Macy said. “Participation is completely voluntary, and it is an opportunity to support the health of the greater community.”
The development of the symptom tracking system is the second collaboration among Macy, the Center for Rural Engagement and Southern Indiana Community Health Care. In 2019, Macy and his team launched a smoking cessation program for pregnant women and their families to reduce smoking, improve outcomes for mothers and babies, and develop a replicable model for rural health providers across the state and nation.
“Collaborations like ours with Dr. Macy and Dr. Yoder have the power to truly transform lives and the health of our rural communities in an enduring way,” said Kerry Thomson, executive director of the Center for Rural Engagement. “This is an innovative pivot of IU’s technology and public health resources to address this health emergency that is gripping our world and support our tireless health care professionals.”