Crowdsourcing Mobile Health App Launches to Track Flu Activity at University of Wisconsin

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The University of Wisconsin recently partnered with Survey Analytics to develop a mobile health app for students, faculty & staff to track flu activity. This crowdsourcing research study will allow real-time flu surveillance data to be captured through an app called OutSmart Flu, now currently available for download through the iTunes and Google Play stores.

How It Works

Crowdsourcing Mobile Health App Launches to Track Flu Activity at University of WisconsinThe research study, led by Population Health Sciences professor Dr. Ajay Sethi and doctoral student Christine Muganda, will gauge if a smartphone app and social engagement can predict flu outbreaks more quickly than traditional clinic-based reporting. Particpants using the OutSmart Flu app  will be asked to answer general health questions and report if they are feeling well, sick or experiencing flu-like symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has partnerships with 3,000 clinics across the U.S. UW-Madison’s University Health Services (UHS) is one of the CDC sentinel sites. The CDC method relies on counting the number of students walking into UHS seeking healthcare for influenza-like illness.

On a daily basis, this information will be compiled to determine current flu activity on campus and will be made available to the students.  By “crowd-sourcing” flu surveillance the key goal is to find out if it is possible to detect flu epidemics as early as Google and to see if this earlier awareness can help members of our community take action to stop the spread of flu on campus.

Since most people search their symptoms on the Internet before seeing a doctor, in 2010, Google showed that they could detect flu epidemics two weeks earlier than CDC, but they do not make the data available to specific communities. Earlier awareness of a flu epidemic on a campus like ours can help us take preventive measures such as washing our hands longer and more often, getting the flu vaccine, and getting extra rest.

The study started in August 2013 and will end in May 2014.

Data Collection

The data collected in this experiment, funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will be compared to flu activity reports from UW-Madison’s University Health Services. To learn more about OutSmart Flu and view the recorded flu activity view the recorded activity throughout this flu season please visit or follow @OutSmartFlu on Twitter.