KCL and NIHR launch symptom-tracking app to slow coronavirus spread

King’s College London (KCL) and NIHR Guy's and St Thomas' Biomedical Research Centre have released an app that monitors the symptoms of the COVID-19 virus and tracks how it spreads across the UK.

COVID Symptom Tracker, which was launched in partnership with health science company ZOE Global, asks its users to “take 1-minute to self-report daily, even if you are well”.

This will help the researchers to identify high-risk areas in the UK, how fast the virus is spreading, and which individuals are most at risk due to underlying health conditions.

In the two days since it launched, the COVID Symptom Tracker has made it to the top of the App Store’s Medical apps charts overtaking the NHS App. Starting today, the app will also be available in the US.

The app is an example of healthcare’s digital transformation in an unprecedented time of crisis which has already claimed the lives of thousands, as hospitals struggle to deal with the influx of patients while also being targeted by cyber criminals.

The COVID Symptom Tracker complies with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but its creators state that they are planning to share the anonymised data with “researchers at partner institutions, such as Harvard University and Stanford University” in the US.

As pointed out in the app's FAQ section, the US “has different rules on data protection they may not protect your data in the same way as, or as well as, under GDPR”.

Earlier this week, the NHSX and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care were urged, in an open letter signed by tech journalists, university lecturers, and non-profit organisations, to follow steps that would guarantee that new technologies used to tackle the coronavirus outbreak in the UK abide by data protection ethics.

Sabina Weston

Having only graduated from City University in 2019, Sabina has already demonstrated her abilities as a keen writer and effective journalist. Currently a content writer for Drapers, Sabina spent a number of years writing for ITPro, specialising in networking and telecommunications, as well as charting the efforts of technology companies to improve their inclusion and diversity strategies, a topic close to her heart.

Sabina has also held a number of editorial roles at Harper's Bazaar, Cube Collective, and HighClouds.