App tracks number of sick people across the U.S.

Posted at 10:59 PM, Feb 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-14 23:59:20-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City company is using social media to help identify what areas in your neighborhood have the highest rates of illness. 

SickScore is a crowdsourcing app that tracks a variety of health ailments in real-time all across the country. 

How it works 

The app scans social media looking for keywords, like "flu," "fever," "cough" and "temperature."

According to Dave Switzer, of SickScore, the company’s algorithm can decipher how a keyword is being used. For example, the software will not include a post about “Bieber Fever” in its data. 

Once the information is recorded, it is geotagged and placed on a map. 

When users open the app, they can see what illnesses are affecting the areas nearby. 

Additionally, users will see a SickScore, which gauges the sick level of a community from 0 to 100. Each illness is weighed differently to represent how contagious or highly distributed it is. For example, the flu has a higher score than allergies and chicken pox has a higher score than both. 

“We like to call it the Doppler Radar for illness because you're really trying to scan the area to find out what is going on,” said Switzer.

Is it accurate? 

When local health departments of the Centers for Disease Control collect data, it comes from doctor reports. 

SickScore data is collected from self-reporting, either social media accounts or manual inputs by users. 

Social media “is where the conversation is going on, that’s where everybody is talking about and where they are talking about it,” said Switzer. 

The app’s goal is to collect enough information to be able to forecast illnesses.