A Ghanaian software development company, Cognate Systems has developed and deployed an innovative system to provide insights into the spread of COVID-19.
A Ghanaian software engineering company, Cognate Systems has launched its Opine Health Assistant platform. This system tracks Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms and provides data and visual insights for disease surveillance teams, public health experts and other stakeholders in real-time.
This platform is a community-driven initiative that uses accessible mobile technology USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) and encourages members of the public to work with heath and data experts to fight the pandemic. Cognate Systems has offered to give this platform to the Ghana Health Service at no cost to help fight the Coronavirus pandemic.
To use Opine Health Assistant, users in Ghana dial the USSD short code *920*222# or *714*444# on their mobile phones and then follow the prompts to answer questions about symptoms and other risk factors.
USSD was chosen because it removes many of the barriers to accessing the system in such a critical moment. USSD is widely accessible across the country; it does not require internet access; it does not incur network charges for users; it does not need any installation of an app and so users do not need to have a smartphone. These are important factors to consider in many developing countries.
Opine Heath Assistant has built-in data analysis tools to help health and data experts make sense of the symptoms reported by the public in real-time. The data is visualized spatially on maps with filters that can highlight symptoms of interest. Charts and dashboards are available to help monitor key risk factors and to help with finding patterns within the data.
This makes it easy for stakeholders without data analysis expertise to get the required insights for decision making. These features of the platform are driven by the team’s range of expertise in software engineering, data science, and artificial intelligence.
The Opine Health Assistant team believes that significant insights into the spread of the virus within our communities can be gained by everyone regularly reporting symptoms of COVID-19, if any, or reporting full health otherwise. Analyzing such data will instantly flag any hotspots of potential infections that are forming, as well as highlight the pattern of spread of the virus in different parts of Ghana. It also supports the tracing and monitoring of contacts with infected persons.
Cognate Systems piloted the Opine Health Assistant with volunteers from the public between 19th March and 25th March 2020 after identifying the need for such an innovative system before Ghana recorded its first Coronavirus cases. The team then deployed the full live Opine Health Assistant on 26th March 2020.
The team is currently engaging with the relevant medical experts to provide follow-ups to persons who report systems on Opine. This can help give reassurances to users and relieve some of the psychological stresses that people with COVID-19 symptoms who are in self-isolation may experience.
They are also preparing to release additional tools to support the automatic scheduling of testing of the public. This is based on the risk assessment of reported symptoms, the proximity to testing centers and the capacity of the testing centers.