Mobile enabled diagnostics will have a key role to play in combatting influenza outbreaks

Mobile enabled diagnostics will have a key role to play  in combatting influenza outbreaks

Dr Neil Polwart, NovarumTM founder and BBI Group Head of Mobile, has over a decade of experience in the delivery of next generation diagnostic technologies within mobile health (mHealth).

As we approach the end of the summer months and families start to return home from vacation, it’s not uncommon for some travelers to bring home more than just a souvenir. For many international travelers, exposure to new allergens and germs contracted while abroad can lead to an enhanced risk of their infection being passed on to others when they return.

Viruses with multiple strains, such as influenza, are highly contagious and if left undetected, can pose a serious threat to public health. To combat the risk that illnesses like common flu can pose to the public, health services across the United States are gearing up for the possibility of another extended flu season. 

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), last year’s US flu season was the longest in a decade and lasted for a total of 21 weeks. Between 2018 and 2019, influenza-like illness activity began increasing in November and peaked during mid-February, only returning to below baseline in mid-April.

With flu seasons now lasting longer, early and accurate diagnosis is crucial to identifying and rapidly treating infections.

Controlling the spread of the infection continues to be one of the greatest challenges for health providers, as most patients carrying the infection will be contagious for at least one day before their physical flu symptoms start.

Mobile enabled diagnostics may hold part of the answer to solving the spread of influenza outbreaks by offering a simplified and smart way for patients to self-test, read and share results with a healthcare professional from the comfort of their own home.

At BBI Solutions, we are committed to transforming the diagnostic testing approach through our innovative Novarum mobile technology to empower point of care testing and deliver results of lab quality to health providers in real time.

Novarum’s mobile technology mitigates many of the risks identified around performing visual-read point of care assays outside the auspices of the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments Act (so called CLIA Waiver), which establishes quality standards for all testing in the USA to ensure the accuracy, reliability and timeliness of patient test results.

Earlier this month, BBI attended the world’s largest laboratory medicine tradeshow, the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) annual conference in California. While our team was there, it was fantastic to be able to meet with representatives from some of the biggest household names in the clinical and medicine sector and demonstrate to them how mobile diagnostic solutions hold the potential to alleviate some of the strain that uncontrolled outbreaks place on the health care industry.

During the tradeshow, BBI Solutions’ mobile solution, Novarum, launched a demonstrator to an invited audience of more than 40 industry leaders from leading point of care and rapid assay providers. The demo offered potential customers an opportunity to experience how the app can remove complexities and avoid common obstacles to accurate point of care test interpretation.

Novarum’s clear instructions enable users to perform their test with little or no training and our patented image capture software corrects for misalignment. Results show an instant pass, fail or qualitative result and remove any subjectivity for the user, which can then be shared instantly with professionals to action and follow up quickly to improve patient outcomes and treatment.

One of the world’s largest charitable organisations, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is investing record funds to taking the global influenza challenge. Last year, the foundation announced that it was teaming up with Google’s Larry Page to jointly fund $12 million into the development of a universal flu vaccine.

The foundation is also proactively encouraging more innovative ways to combat the spread of influenza, and revolutions in diagnostics being driven by technology business opens new opportunities. With same day delivery from places like Amazon becoming more common, it’s possible to envisage a patient who thinks they may have flu to order a self-test from Amazon, which can then be delivered directly to their front door within a few hours. This way, patients have not travelled on public transport or visited a hospital waiting room and transferred the infection to other people.

This is an example of a fresh and forward-thinking approach that we can certainly expect to see become more widely adopted in the future. While this route to diagnosis may not be an option for everyone, we know that by reducing the amount of travel and contact that people have while carrying an infection, we can directly impact the reduction and spread of flu.

For example, a parent or guardian could buy two or three self-test kits ahead of the flu season and test if their children are sick without having to take them out of the house and risk exposing the contagion to other people.  

Bringing mobile enabled point of care technology into the equation would bring even more benefits to healthcare providers. Apps supporting those affected by influenza would then enable the user to read and share the results of their diagnostic tests using only a smartphone and create a pool of data that would enable pharmaceutical providers to identify key outbreak areas.

This would help pharmacies to develop more targeted treatments for sufferers and herald a new approach to tracking influenza trends - and could even enable global monitoring of seasonal spikes in flu outbreaks.

Bringing patients closer to understanding how to check and diagnose the cause of their conditions would be highly empowering and enabling, creating an easy way to track, measure and share the results of their diagnostic test – deepening knowledge and creating a more supportive and connected care pathway.

For more information and to see how we can transform your test so that it is equipped for a new era of mobile diagnostics, click here.

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