New app to help 2 rural Indiana counties track COVID-19 symptoms

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University and rural health care providers are joining forces to track patient reports of COVID-19 symptoms, analyze the virus's spread and help residents make informed health care decisions.

Software developer and data analyst David Tidd, doctoral student Kristina Mullis and associate professor Jon Macy in the IU' School of Public Health-Bloomington developed a tool in partnership with the IU Center for Rural Engagement and Southern Indiana Community Health Care that residents in Orange County and Crawford County, Indiana, can use to monitor their own symptoms and inform providers and public health officials of potential people infected with the novel coronavirus.

Nursing students meet around a table in Orange County, IndianaView print quality image
IU School of Nursing students met in February before mobilizing to conduct rural home health care visits in Orange County. Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana University

"Information is critical to both patients and providers," said Dr. Yolanda Yoder, a family practitioner with Southern Indiana Community Health Care and adjunct clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the IU School of Medicine. "This tracking tool can enhance communication as we plan the best course of care for our patient, whether it's education on early symptoms, advice about quarantine practices or decisions about medical interventions. And with limited testing available, the data we collect can give us an epidemiologic view into our rural communities during this pandemic, with a more comprehensive picture as we make decisions moving forward."

The tool will provide a daily journal for patients, which can help medical teams determine the best care plan and speed up processes that could otherwise be stalled by lack of information. Residents of Orange and Crawford counties can use the online app or maintain a paper version, available from Southern Indiana Community Health Care, if internet is inaccessible.

"This tool empowers residents to share their own health observations, thereby informing public health decisions and research as we address this pandemic locally and statewide," Macy said. "Participation is completely voluntary, and it is an opportunity to support the health of the greater community."

The development of the symptom tracking system is the second collaboration among Macy, the Center for Rural Engagement and Southern Indiana Community Health Care. In 2019, Macy and his team launched a smoking cessation program for pregnant women and their families to reduce smoking, improve outcomes for mothers and babies, and develop a replicable model for rural health providers across the state and nation.

"Collaborations like ours with Dr. Macy and Dr. Yoder have the power to truly transform lives and the health of our rural communities in an enduring way," said Kerry Thomson, executive director of the Center for Rural Engagement. "This is an innovative pivot of IU's technology and public health resources to address this health emergency that is gripping our world and support our tireless health care professionals."

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IU Center for Rural Engagement

The IU Center for Rural Engagement improves the lives of Hoosiers through collaborative initiatives that discover and deploy scalable and flexible solutions to common challenges facing rural communities. Working in full-spectrum community innovation through research, community-engaged teaching and student service, the center builds vision, harnesses assets and cultivates sustainable leadership structures within the communities it engages with to ensure long-term success.

IU School of Public Health-Bloomington

The Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington offers top-ranked academic programs that prepare students for challenging careers preventing disease and promoting wellness in communities everywhere. Its innovative research is grounded in rigor, reproducibility and transparency. With nearly 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 150 faculty in five departments, its faculty and students conduct research, learn, teach and engage across the spectrum of health and quality of life.

Southern Indiana Community Health Care

Southern Indiana Community Health Care is a nonprofit Federally Qualified Health Center committed to providing a broad spectrum of primary health care, including outpatient care, obstetrics, hospitalizations and integrated behavioral health via four offices in Orange and Crawford counties since 1975.

Media Contact

Kyla Cox Deckard

IU Center for Rural Engagement

Phone: 812-855-4992

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Cell: 812-219-9993

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Email: knblanke@indiana.edu

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