Trustworthy Coronavirus Apps
To prevent misinformation and profiteering during these troubling times, both the Apple and Google Play App Stores have cracked down on coronavirus related apps. Apple is only allowing applications from “recognized institutions,” and Google Play displays zero results when searching for “coronavirus” or “covid-19.” This caution was justified given the recent ransomware coronavirus app. In face of these trying times, here is a list of reliable apps that won’t brick your device.
HealthLynked’s COVID-19 tracking app released on February 27, 2020 for iOS (I couldn’t find it in the Google Play store so I’m assuming it’s still pending verification). This app displays a somber dashboard that tracks COVID-19 infections worldwide. The app also allows users to report their own symptoms and compare them to COVID-19 symptoms, chat with other members, and self-report infection locations. All infection information is displayed on a global map. Because the app draws statistics and infection information from the CDC and WHO, infection cases reported by local news outlets were not immediately shown on the infection map (just might be a delay in reporting and showing up on the app). However, if you’re looking for a virus tracker, this may be the best (and only) reliable app I found.
(Healthlynked’s COVID-19 Tracker’s Dashboard).
Generally, I am cautious about any app that allows you to self-diagnosis your symptoms. Every symptom checking app cautions you (legally mandated I am sure) at the very beginning, that the information provided is not a diagnosis and to consult with your medical provider. WebMD has been a popular bane of medical professionals, but the current climate will likely bring in a new wave of self-proclaimed health experts. Based on my review however, WebMD does not allow you to check for coronavirus symptoms at this time.
Apple has officially released an app in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the White House, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The app is a screening tool for those who believe they may be at risk. The screening tool asks questions about your symptoms, travel, and contact with others. The results I received after I imputed hypothetical mild symptoms of COVID-19 were concise and gave real-life instructions about next steps. For me, it was to self-isolate but not to seek testing (likely due to the lack of testing for low-risk individuals). Overall, after my experience with other “expert systems,” I found that the Apple’s app was the best symptom checker available.
(Apple’s COVID-19 App’s results screen).
ADA is a similar app that allows you analyze symptoms including COVID-19. Again, not a big fan of trying to self-diagnose but the interface is clean and the explanations are straightforward. However, after several attempts of inputting coronavirus symptoms in varying permutations, I could not get a COVID-19 result.
(ADA feels like SIRI for symptoms and diseases).
K Health is another symptom checker app that includes a free coronavirus assessment test. The test asks directed questions related to coronavirus symptoms based on information from the CDC. After the assessment, the app offers to connect you with a medical professional. While I didn’t connect with a doctor, I was able to quickly assess symptoms related to coronavirus.
A much more practical app given the nature of shelter-in-place is Heal. This app puts you in touch with a medical professional to schedule a house call, but is currently only available in some parts of California, Georgia, New York, and Washington D.C. Given that the app works in partnership with licensed physicians, I wonder how long the app will remain viable as our healthcare system experiences the full crush of new coronavirus infections. The app states that a house call without insurance runs around $159, but that approved insurance providers cover much of their service. The concept is a great idea for those high-risk and elderly patients that will find it difficult leaving their home.
CDC and Relief Central apps both offer specialized news services with up to date health information and are found when you search for coronavirus in the Apple app store. Relief Central includes information from the CIA World Factbook, CDC Health Information for International Travel (Yellowbook), daily updated COVID-19 Guidelines, Field Operations Manual from USAID, Prime PubMed Search, and relief news from the Red Cross, UN, CDC, and FEMA. While Relief Central is created for medical practitioners, the COVID-19 guidelines includes information for the general public. Given how coronavirus is effecting everyday life on the local level, I also highly recommend setting up alerts from your local news provider. I attempted to review local news apps for the Los Angeles area but many were behind paywalls, painful ads, or were just generally buggy. I found it much easier to view the news through my traditional feeds than any one specific app.
This was a short review of some of the apps available in the sparse coronavirus app market. I hope everyone stays informed, safe, and healthy through these hard times. I look forward to the time when we all delete these apps from our devices!