The setting: the global COVID-19 outbreak
COVID-19 is a pandemic as declared by the World Health Organization. It is spreading almost simultaneously in many countries around the world. Governments are taking urgent and aggressive actions to change the course of the COVID-19 outbreak, which is currently not yet under control.
The problem: little is known about the disease
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting millions of people and expected to raise considerable excess mortality around the globe. The number of infected cases in need of care at healthcare facilities exceeds the available resources even in countries with well-developed healthcare systems. On the one hand, this will lead to overcrowded hospitals and intensive care units. On the other, many persons at risk or with mild signs and symptoms will be sent for self-isolation and disease monitoring at home.
Still, little is known about COVID-19. It is not yet clear what the exact clusters of signs and symptoms are that persons infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus experience. Although some sub-populations at particular risk of a more serious disease course have been recognized it becomes increasingly clear that also younger people who apparently are otherwise healthy can die from COVID-19.
There is a lack of data which could enable the development of digital biomarkers for the early identification of people at risk of the severe COVID-19 courses. The availability of reliable tools for disease prediction and outcome prognosis will help to establish targeted COVID-19 management strategies – much needed to save resources and prevent the collapse of healthcare systems.
How FORTA helps?
FORTA is an easy-to-use online application to be immediately used by persons with an either suspected or secured COVID-19 diagnosis as well as their household members and other persons from their closer environment, with the purpose of early detecting more severe courses of COVID-19 at risk of hospitalization. As they have access to the individual data sets they are empowered for the early initiation of measures for the prevention of COVID-19 aggravation.
The data is collected through structured daily reports that are developed in collaboration with medical experts. In the background, these data will be analyzed in real-time for trends of symptoms that meet critical data thresholds, indicating aggravation of the medical condition and potentially high-risk cases. Notifications will be respectively triggered to inform a responsible unit at the healthcare provider to take actions accordingly. This helps providers to identify early those people at high risk of severe COVID-19 courses and react on time.
The data will help to increase public knowledge on how COVID-19 affects individuals, their close families, different age groups, larger communities, and eventually global societies. Furthermore, the real-world, big data collected with FORTA will support public health as well as clinical and epidemiological research organizations in their studies to better understand SARS-CoV-2 contagiousness and the COVID-19 disease trajectories.
FORTA is an initiative aligned with the activities of the EIT Health-funded innovation project RealWorld4Clinic, which brings real-world data to pivotal clinical research and outpatient cardiology care.
How FORTA works?
Healthcare providers advise their high-risk patients and those infected with SARS-COV-2 to use FORTA for daily reporting of their symptoms. FORTA can be accessed as a Web application via any Web browser in mobile phone or desktop computer.
Through a simple Web interface, individuals may complete every day quick health reports for themselves and their close relatives. If the following day there is no change in symptoms, the reporter may complete a checkup with 1 or 2 questions only. The user is encouraged to use FORTA for reporting anytime, if symptoms have changed during the day for themselves or their relatives.
A special unit at the site of the healthcare provider takes charge of daily monitoring the collected data and notifications triggered from FORTA analytics tool for potentially critical cases. This unit takes actions accordingly to get in contact with the individuals and take the necessary measures.
FORTA secures data protection and privacy. It is built upon a GDPR-compliant platform in which no personal identification information (e.g. name, id, etc.) is registered; the only personal data processed are age, gender, and city. Furthermore, the fully anonymized data are stored on a closed, secure ISO-certified server in Germany.