Wearable device helps predict flu outbreaks faster

Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have developed a wearable device that may predict influenza outbreaks faster than traditional methods. Photo by Stephen Shaver

May 19 (UPI) — Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital have developed a wearable device that can predict seasonal influenza outbreaks faster than conventional methods.

The Thermia online health educational tool works as a standalone digital application or can receive a child’s temperature reading directly through the iThermonitor, an FDA-approved, patch-like wearable thermometer worn under the arm.

Researchers tested the device in China where the iThermonitor’s manufacturer, Railing Medical Inc., is located.

“The fact that we were able to predict influenza outbreaks faster than China’s national surveillance programs really shows the capacity for everyday, wearable digital health devices to track the spread of disease at the population level,” Yulin Hswen, a research fellow in Boston Children’s Computational Epidemiology Group, said in a press release.

Researchers analyzed data collected from nearly 45,000 data points from China’s Thermia users between 2014 and 2016 and found outbreaks of “influenza-like illnesses,” were detected in real time.

The information collected from the Thermia and iThermonitor devices showed influenza outbreaks a month earlier than data collected from the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China.

“Delays in clinically-reported data and lack of data availability contribute to the challenges of identifying outbreaks rapidly,” John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital and director of the Computational Epidemiology Lab and the hospital’s Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator, or IDHA, said.

“As a result, we have more and more opportunities to use real-time, low-cost digital solutions like Thermia to improve disease surveillance.”

The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health.


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