After the NHS COVID-19 app prevented up to 600,000 cases, Med-Tech Innovation News caught up with Wolfgang Emmerich, CEO of Zuhlke UK, who creates and operates the app, and then what and how long the app We talked about what we would need.
You said the app will be used for a while, can you set either a timescale for that period or a scenario that you might actually not need?
If COVID-19 is eradicated, it is not necessary. But all the predictions are that this is quite far away. The vaccination program has started really well, but there are limits to what can be achieved and how quickly. First, no vaccine is 100% effective. They may not get very sick, but there are still people who can get infected and infect others with the virus. Second, it has also become clear that vaccination coverage is not universally high and that some of the population in need of protection continues to exist. Finally, it will take some time before herd immunity is achieved. Indeed, during that period, the app has an important role to play in containing the infection.
I used this app to prevent about 600,000 cases. How did you get this number?
We were not the ones who suggested this number. It was discovered by researchers at the University of Oxford and the Alan Turing Institute. They investigated the impact of the app. This approach is explained in detail in a blog post by Mark Briers. They used two different methods. The first modeled the impact using model parameters notified by the data collected through the app. The second approach compares adjacent zip code districts with similar demographic and socio-economic structures but different uptakes in the app, and finds that the infection level of high uptake zip codes is significantly lower. understood. Using the statistical model, we arrived at the figure above.
What do you think about downloading to the general public? Is 56% of the Eligible Population the Right Number?
When it comes to global contact tracing app penetration, 56% is higher than achieved in most countries. This is a result of the app providing features other than pure contact tracing. It’s not the number of downloads that matters, but the number of users per day, which is about 16.5 million, which is still very high in international comparisons. For every 1% increase in usage, the infection rate decreases by 2.3%, so we are aiming to further increase usage.
Did you have any problems during the first few months of use in terms of continuous updates?
The app is groundbreaking because it uses a digital approach to contact tracing that was never used before the pandemic began. It uses very new technology built into Apple’s and Google’s smartphone operating systems, resulting in the need for continuous updates. It is impossible for Apple, Google, and the NHS COVID-19 app team to do everything right from the start and predict how the virus will mutate and how public health policy will change. By continuously releasing improvements, we now have the best contact tracing app in the world.
Are there any further updates to it, such as serving as advice or evidence for those who need to claim self-quarantine allowances?
There are more updates. There is a long roadmap of work that takes into account the changing nature of the situation. However, we haven’t changed the basic principles of the app, and privacy by design is one of them. As a result, you cannot use the app to provide evidence that people are self-quarantining because they require access to locations and identity data that are prohibited by the terms of Apple and Google API licenses. ..
How do you expect this app to be used as part of a wider range of strategies, including infectious disease testing, antibody testing, and vaccination?
Most recently, we released version 4.4, which supports input lateral flow test results. Lateral flow testing is part of this broad strategy as it provides results almost instantly. However, it is not as accurate as lab-based PCR tests, and the app suggests booking lab-based tests after the results of a particular lateral flow test have been entered. We are also considering changing the app according to the role of vaccination.
How important are apps to the development of healthcare technology and are they considered milestones in the future?
This app is a class 1 medical device and has obtained the CE mark after being registered by MHRA. To be able to register the app as a required medical device after a rigorous development process and provide evidence that it has been thoroughly tested. Using apps as medical devices is a recent trend, and the NHSCOVID-19 app is probably one of the most widely used medical device apps in the world.
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