Medical scientists at the University of St Andrews have joined forces with data scientists Blue Hat Associates to further medical research and understanding about the spread of Covid-19 within the community.

How Covid-19 spreads within the community and individual households remains uncertain as current data is based on people who receive medical care. A Covid-19 tracker app allows people to share data on the members of their household including symptoms.

This research, one of three research projects awarded to St Andrews as part of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Rapid Research programme, aims to extract key information from households’ reports of Covid-19 and link these with medical records to get a better idea of the true number of people with the disease.

The project will look to see if people who stay at home with Covid-19 have different symptoms to those who need medical help or are admitted to hospital.

Outcomes for patients recovering in a home setting 

Using data being collected in the recently launched website, this crowd-sourced data will help researchers understand the profile of the pandemic within households and within communities.

Key advantages of this tracking includes:

  • Capturing data and updates on an entire household or neighbourhood
  • Tracking the disease in children
  • Recording all symptoms of illness
  • Simple technology allowing those without smartphones to record their data

St Andrews Medical School intend to use the data to research the outcomes for patients recovering in a home setting against those who seek GP support.

The data collected will be made available to research institutions and those signing up will be able to see the profile of their local area. Those signing up are agreeing to share their anonymous data with other organisations, and can opt in to share personal data for St Andrews medical research.

Professor Colin McCowan from the School of Medicine at St Andrews said: “One of the big unanswered questions with Covid-19 is how many people actually have caught it. We know about the people who contact the NHS but not those who have stayed at home self-isolating. 

“This work will help us identify that group of people and allow us to examine if there are differences between them and the people who have contacted the NHS. This will give us a more accurate picture of how many people have Covid-19 and also help in planning how best we look after them.”

Blue Hat founder, Tim Palmer, said: “As experts in data and analytics, we saw a lack of breadth in the data being collected, focussing on a narrow set of symptoms of those within a medical environment. We developed a crowd sourced data tracker in March to catch data from families who may only have minor symptoms and are delighted St Andrews will be using the data to aid the research.”