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Digital Health Technology Aims to Identify Flu at Home

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   October 26, 2022

A digital health company has unveiled an app and platform that can help consumers identify flu-like symptoms at home and access resources for treatment.

With experts predicting an extremely hectic flu season, a digital health company is marketing a direct-to-consumer platform designed to help consumers identify flu symptoms at home and access resources for recovery.

California-based Evidation, which has developed digital health tools in the past to support organizations like Merck, Sanofi, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation, says its FluSmart technology analyzes data from wearables to identify flu-like symptoms and offer personalized insights and links to resources.

The platform is the latest in a surge of digital health products designed to help consumers—and their care providers—identify health concerns like infectious viruses at home, before they go to work, school, or a public location like the mall, and help manage their care instead of going to the doctor's office or hospital.

These products can help health systems in reducing waiting room and ED traffic and speeding up time to treatment, while businesses, schools and government offices can monitor employee health.

HealthLeaders spoke virtually with Christine Lemke, co-founder and co-CEO of the company, about the new offering.

Q. How is FluSmart used by the consumer? What technology is used?

Lemke: To get started with FluSmart, individuals download the Evidation app for iOS or Android and sign up for FluSmart via the app or an online link. FluSmart participants have the option to connect a wearable—the program is device-agnostic—but it is not required. Participants answer questions about how they’re feeling on a weekly basis, in addition to being prompted when an Evidation algorithm notices changes in their wearable device data that suggests they may have influenza-like-illness symptoms.

More broadly, the FluSmart program relies on models Evidation has built over many years engaging directly with hundreds of thousands of individuals over the course of their experiences with flu, COVID, and other influenza-like illnesses.

Q. How are you marketing this, i.e. getting the word out that it’s available?

Lemke: Evidation is recruiting participants for the program from its network of almost 5 million members from all over the country using the Evidation app. The Evidation network is one of the largest, most diverse virtual pools of research participants, and there are already 90,000 individuals enrolled in FluSmart this year.

Q. How might healthcare providers (health systems, hospitals, clinics, etc.) or payers take advantage of this service? In other words, can this be integrated into a primary care practice, health plan or some other provider-based strategy or program?

Lemke: This program can help identify individuals with meaningful changes in wearable data or survey data that are correlated with flu—in a key window of early symptom onset. This could be used to do things like identify individuals and prompt them to consider getting screened for flu or COVID, generate awareness for available interventions in an especially relevant moment, precisely recruit people for a clinical trial, or send targeted messages around self-care and when to contact or see a healthcare provider.

Evidation is able to collaborate with health systems, providers, and other partners to use FluSmart with their population. As with every partner, Evidation utilizes industry-leading privacy and regulatory practices, and requires every individual participant to consent for any use of their data.

One day, our hope is that providers could integrate this to help guide their patients into preventive or proactive care journeys to ensure care is delivered at the right time. This technology has the potential to reduce emergency room visits and find patients who need extra support at the right moment.

Q. How do you check or ensure that a consumer knows how to use this technology properly?

Lemke: If someone is able to use an app and answer basic questions about themself, they can use FluSmart. Participants only need to enroll in the program via the app, connect any wearables or other devices they want to contribute data, and respond to prompts for self-reported information as desired. The app walks them through the enrollment process and how to contribute, and there is no special equipment required. 

If a participant has a connected activity tracker, FluSmart will alert them when it detects a change in activity data that suggests they might be feeling under the weather – no special setup is needed beyond enrollment. Engaging with this alert will route the participant to the next best action for them.

Q. How might this product or program evolve? How might it be used to address other health concerns or populations?

Lemke: FluSmart is emblematic of the work Evidation does. The core principle underlying Evidation is to help guide individuals toward healthy actions or information when it is most useful to them—and their care teams and broader community. In addition to flu and other infectious diseases, Evidation has explored the utility of data collected from smartphones and wearables to more effectively identify, track the development of, and return insights regarding Alzheimer’s Disease and cognitive impairment, Parkinson’s, and heart health, among other health conditions. There’s great potential for this sort of data to provide better understanding about health in everyday life across a range of therapeutic areas. 

Additionally, connecting with a geographically, racially, and ethnically diverse group of people in their everyday life, continuously and longitudinally, offers a profound opportunity to a) generate high impact real world data and evidence and b) offer personalized health programs by being able to identify which individuals a study or program may be most useful for.

Eric Wicklund is the Innovation and Technology Editor for HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Digital health companies and health systems are applying lessons learned during the pandemic to design tools, including apps and wearables, that can help consumers identify health concerns like infectious viruses and access resources for treatment.

These platforms can help healthcare providers reduce waiting room and ED traffic and improve time to treatment, while businesses, schools and government offices can use them to monitor employee health.

The technology is part of a trend that's pushing healthcare out of the clinic, doctor's office, and hospital and into the home and other remote locations. 


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