With just under two million infections worldwide and a quarter of the number recovering, Covid-19 seems to have brought anxiety to many people, especially, in high-risk prone areas.
Ghana is yet to record double-digit deaths but confirmed cases have crossed the 500 mark. It raises questions about voluntary testing, besides the routine and expanded testing being undertaken by the Ghana Health Service.
Before rushing to the hospital to know your risk status, perhaps, you might first want to check out an application developed by Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
A team of experts from KNUST School of Public Health has developed the web-based app, called Covid-19 TECHBOT.
It is the brainchild of Dr Arti Singh of the KNUST Hospital, who says the innovation was informed by the need to reduce excessive doctor-patient contact during this period due to the risk of cross-infection and reduce exposure to healthcare workers.
“We want to reduce as much as possible non-essential visits by patients. We don’t want many people to come to the hospital setting because these places are currently the most risky areas,” she explains.
Dr. Singh leveraged her experience in the use of technology for control of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension; with the support of Dean of Public Health, Prof Ellis Owusu-Dabo, and Kenneth Asante Owusu of the University Information Technology Services, to design an app that can be used to assess risk for Covid-19.
“It’s meant to reduce anxiety and panic that is caused by the covid-19 so that people can sit in their homes and assess their risk in the comfort of their homes,” she said.
The App, which is now a free weblink, was designed based on guidelines from the World Health Organisation and Ghana Health Service.
It gives assessment based on answers composed from 8 questions.
“It consists of eight questions with multiple choice options with different scores assigned to each response,” Dr Singh explains.
The tool provides a final risk assessment of the individual ranging from, low, medium to high risk.
“After that it gives you advice on what you’re supposed to do. If you’re found to be high- risk it provides you with helpline numbers from the Ghana Health Service and because it was designed with students and staff of the university in mind, there are contact numbers of the university hospital, as well,” she revealed.
“The App which was deployed in the first week of April has had more than 6,000 responses already. Over 4,000 are low risk and a few of them; 86 are high risk. Most of the high-risk assessments are males,” Mr Asante Owusu disclosed.
So what are users saying about the app? Bright Atteh, a front desk executive who is not new to healthcare Apps, is satisfied with TECHBOT but he thinks it could be more personal.
“I’m a customer service personnel and somebody is also a driver. Both of us meet people differently. When I meet them I won’t know whether they’re at risk or not. If they could expand it they’ll know more about my movement,” he noted
Bright also thinks the final assessment of low, medium and high risk should be quantified.
“They should give us the results in percentages. So if it’s medium what percentage? This can help me protect myself more,” he suggested.
Unlike the GH COVID-19 tracker developed by the Ghana Health Service which demands personal details such as mobile number and email ID, TECHBOT does not demand these details.
“We wished one of the items could determine patient location but just because it’ll give us access to the patient, it’s an identifier,” Dr Singh pointed out.
”If we could get the locations based on where people are answering these questions from then, at least, for those who’ll be in the medium or high risk, we could get access to them and organize surveillance screening because it might turn out to be a hotspot and we could take the necessary steps. In the upcoming days, we might go ahead to improve it and add some more features to make it more informative,” she added.
With the virus becoming more complex to manage, amid potential extension of lockdowns, digital platforms, such as the TECHBOT, will come in handy to augment platforms, like the one launched by government, to quell the number of infections.
You might want to give it a try.