COVID-19 symptom-tracking app goes viral ahead of US launch

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COVID
This app allows you to help others, but does not give health advice.
Photo: Zoe

U.K. health researchers launched a COVID-19 symptom-tracking app to help monitor the spread of the coronavirus this week — and it already rocketed to the top of the App Store charts.

COVID Symptom Tracker has reportedly been downloaded 750,000 times since it launched Thursday, making it the No. 3 most popular app overall in the United Kingdom and the top medical app. The app could prove to be a vital tool for health care workers in the fight against the coronavirus, and it’s coming to the United States soon.

COVID Symptom Tracker cannot diagnose a coronavirus infection. It also does not provide an overview of where COVID-19 symptoms crop up as the disease spreads. Instead, the app developers’ goal is to provide medical professionals with more crucial patient information. That, in turn, can help them better plan how to attack the coronavirus pandemic.

What does the tracker actually do?

The UI of COVID Symptom Tracker is fairly basic and straightforward. Users are asked to self-report their symptoms every day. If you feel healthy as normal, you don’t get any more questions. Individuals who respond that they’re not feeling quite right are then asked what their symptoms are, where they’re at, and if they’ve sought any medical help.

Zoe, a startup that spun out of King’s College Hospital, created the app in partnership with researchers at the hospital. The original plan was to develop an app that can help determine where to send COVID-19 test kits, but that turned out to not be the best idea.

“We were actively speaking to a multitude of companies that are making or have testing kits, and originally the idea was that if we identified people who were expressing symptoms, maybe we could get a testing kit to them faster,” said Zoe spokesperson Sara Gordon in an interview with TechCrunch.

Attention is now being turned to how the data can help the U.K.’s National Health Service see the shape of the virus spreading. Zoe’s website says COVID Symptom Tracker is set to launch in the United States on March 26. However, we’re not seeing it in the U.S. App Store quite yet.

The company says it plans to make the app open source and hand it off to the right people to continue the work.