10 Jul Use of a Digital Health Application for Influenza Surveillance in China
In China, the Thermia-empowered iThermonitor has gained popularity among digitally-savvy parents who have purchased the wearable device to monitor their child’s temperature. When iThermonitor detects a fever, parents can access Thermia via web or mobile and answer online questions about the child’s current symptoms and medical history.
Data collected from these interactions is anonymized and analyzed by the Boston Children’s team to enable disease tracking. Using this method, the team collected nearly 45,000 data points from China’s Thermia users between 2014 and 2016. They discovered that outbreaks of “influenza-like illnesses,” which had the hallmark signs of influenza, could be detected digitally in real time.
In comparison to the influenza surveillance data collected by the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) of the People’s Republic of China, the data from iThermonitor and Thermia revealed influenza outbreaks an entire month earlier
Objectives. To examine whether a commercial digital health application could support influenza surveillance in China.
Methods. We retrieved data from the Thermia online and mobile educational tool, which allows parents to monitor their children’s fever and infectious febrile illnesses including influenza. We modeled monthly aggregated influenza-like illness case counts from Thermia users over time and compared them against influenza monthly case counts obtained from the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China by using time series regression analysis. We retrieved 44 999 observations from January 2014 through July 2016 from Thermia China.
Results. Thermia appeared to predict influenza outbreaks 1 month earlier than the National Health and Family Planning Commission influenza surveillance system (P = .046). Being younger, not having up-to-date immunizations, and having an underlying health condition were associated with participant-reported influenza-like illness.
Conclusions. Digital health applications could supplement traditional influenza surveillance systems in China by providing access to consumers’ symptom reporting. Growing popularity and use of commercial digital health applications in China potentially affords opportunities to support disease detection and monitoring and rapid treatment mobilization.