BARDA taps Evidation Health to digitally monitor healthcare workers for early COVID-19 symptoms

Evidation Health is pairing up with the U.S. government’s experimental medical research arm to develop a digital means of detecting a person’s early symptoms of COVID-19. 

The project will receive funding support from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Evidation plans to gather behavior and symptom data—including sleep and activity patterns from wearable devices, plus self-reported health issues—from 300 people with a high risk of being exposed to and possibly contracting the disease, such as healthcare workers and first responders.

Alongside nonprofit health data outfit 4YouandMe, the two will use the de-identified information to construct an algorithm aimed at better understanding a person’s susceptibility to the novel coronavirus—which could be used to alert people to take distancing precautions and closely monitor themselves for new respiratory symptoms.

“Many infected individuals are asymptomatic but still able to spread the virus, making efforts to prevent and slow transmission of COVID-19 difficult,” said Evidation’s co-founder and chief data scientist Luca Foschini. “This initiative will use novel behavioral and physiological data to more effectively identify when and where people may contract COVID-19, and can potentially enable real-time interventions to limit spread and monitor outcomes.”

The new program builds upon the former Fierce 15 winner’s ongoing project tracking changes in the health and behaviors of more than 185,000 people nationwide. 

Launched in mid-March, COVID-19 Pulse recruited tens of thousands of people through Evidation’s Achievement app for virtual research in less than a month—exploring the pandemic’s impact on access to care and prescription drugs as well as the adoption of telemedicine. Evidation has also worked with BARDA to monitor individuals for respiratory infections such as the flu.

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“The ability to self-monitor and be informed of health status will empower Americans in their decisions to help slow the spread of this pandemic and improve health outcomes for people with COVID-19,” said Gary Disbrow, acting director of BARDA, which awarded Evidation $720,000. 

“This pilot study is not only an early step in demonstrating the utility of models developed using person-generated health data but also may provide data to better understand the varied symptoms of COVID-19,” Disbrow said.