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Launch of Singapore's COVID-19 Symptom Checker
With the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, public can find it overwhelming trying to make sense of information about the disease and choosing when and where to go for treatment. As a result, worried individuals may go to the Emergency Departments (EDs) of hospitals as a default choice. This may jam up EDs and utilise scarce healthcare resources inefficiently.
The COVID-19 online symptom checker was created to empower people and their loved ones with the right information, support and resources to make an informed decision at the right time, and to direct them to the right place. Through effective patient navigation, the healthcare system’s resources can also be optimised while getting the best outcome for the patient.
The checker is a web-based screening tool that allows users in Singapore who experience flu-like symptoms to run a quick self-check of their symptoms and get immediate advice on the next course of action. The screening tool prompts users with questions about their symptoms, recent travel, contact with people who have been exposed to the virus, and directs them to a suggested site of care.
To make this possible, Dr Praveen Deorani and his colleagues from the Data, Science and Technology team: Mr Nikola Vouk and Ms Faye Voulivasi, led by Professor Robert Morris, started designing the portal from scratch together with Dr James Yip, Chief Medical Informatics Officer of NUHS. They then sought clinical refinement from Professor John Eu-Li Wong, Special Advisor to NUHS, together with doctors from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases and National University Polyclinics. The recommendations are aligned with guidelines from the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and the team was able to quickly add new symptoms, such as loss of smell, as it became clear that they were important.
Above: A screenshot of the COVID-19 Symptom Checker
Although when first launched, the checker was only available in English, after receiving valuable feedback that adding more languages would be beneficial to a wider group, a team of language experts and volunteers worked hard and fast to translate the site. Currently, the site offers help in six languages, namely, English, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil, Bengali and Burmese.
This initiative caught the media’s attention and has been widely publicised and shared across various media platforms, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a Facebook post on 29 April 2020.
Besides the traditional print and broadcast, the checker was also featured as part of the COVID-19 Chronicles, a comic series run by Professor Dale Fisher, the Chair of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Senior Consultant at National University Hospital’s Division of Infectious Diseases, and his team at National University of Singapore's Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. The series aims to increase awareness of the virus and share proper measures people should take to protect themselves.
Above: The NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine dedicated one issue of its comic strip to the checker
One month after the launch, the checker had been visited 570,000 times with about 277,000 unique visitors. The team will continue to update the checker as more information about the disease and better understanding of the changing needs become known.
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