University of Wisconsin partners with Survey Analytics to track flu activity through crowdsourcing smartphone app

SEATTLE, Sept. 30, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The University of Wisconsin Madison Population Health Sciences Department recently partnered with Survey Analytics to develop a smartphone app for students, faculty and staff to track flu activity on campus. This crowdsourcing experiment will allow real-time flu surveillance data to be captured through an app called OutSmart Flu, now available for download through the iTunes and Google Play stores.

Led by Population Health Sciences professor Dr. Ajay Sethi and doctoral student Christine Muganda, this experiment will gauge if a smartphone app and social engagement can predict flu outbreaks more quickly than traditional clinic-based reporting. Through smartphones, participants of OutSmart Flu will be asked to answer general health questions and report if they are feeling well, sick or experiencing flu-like symptoms.

To track the flu in the U.S. currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has partnerships with 3,000 clinics across the U.S. UW-Madison's University Health Services (UHS) is one of the CDC sentinel sites. The CDC method relies on counting the number of students walking into UHS seeking healthcare for influenza-like illness. However, in 2010, Google showed that they could identify epidemic flu in the U.S. two weeks earlier than current CDC methods. Many people with flu-like symptoms are more likely to go online for health information before seeing a doctor.

"With OutSmart Flu, we are crowd-sourcing flu surveillance at UW-Madison," says Dr. Sethi. "Beyond just collecting the data, we are making it available in near-real time to our campus community. Students, faculty and staff – whether sick or well – likely want to know if something is going around on campus, especially as we approach peak flu season. Our app might encourage those on campus to be more aware of when the virus is going around, to encourage taking precautions like washing hands a little longer or making an extra effort to get the flu shot."

The 2010 Google study and the recent emergence of mHealth (medical or public health practice supported by mobile devices) were Dr. Sethi's main inspirations for OutSmart Flu. As the idea was shaping, Muganda explored and developed important research questions to advance the fields of mHealth and flu surveillance. Both Sethi and Muganda pursued various avenues to develop their app. After several months of having little to no success, they came across Survey Analytics in March of 2013. Software Consultant Nicole Price and Account Manager Greg Bender of Survey Analytics understood the initiative and brought it to life with a custom branded version of the mobile survey application, SurveySwipe.

"Survey Analytics' platforms had many features that we needed for our initiative," says Dr. Sethi. "Greg also gave us a lot of confidence that we could have our app ready and learn how to use their platform by the start of flu season in September."

Survey Analytics' privacy policy met the requirements of the Institutional Review Board at the University of Wisconsin, who approved the research study.

The data collected in this experiment, funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will be compared to flu activity reports from UW-Madison's University Health Services. To learn more about OutSmart Flu and view the recorded flu activity view the recorded activity throughout this flu season please visit or follow @OutSmartFlu on Twitter.

About OutSmart Flu

Like everyone, college students are attached to their Smartphones and use them for health-related purposes like calorie recording or exercise tracking. So, why not symptom reporting? OutSmart Flu is a smartphone application to crowdsource and monitor flu symptoms at the UW-Madison campus. OutSmart Flu aims to detect flu epidemics early to help members of the community to take action and protect themselves and others from getting sick. Data collected from participants will be frequently updated and available to view online at

About Survey Analytics

Survey Analytics is an enterprise grade research platform that provides companies with feedback in over 30 industries. With powerful cloud enabled tools, Survey Analytics can deliver feedback on consumers, prospects, customers, sponsors and employees in real time and on a global scale. We specialize in the kind of "listening systems" that are geared toward rapid deployment across all channels including web, email, social media, and mobile. Our solution is designed to mitigate the cost of feedback management and increase efficiency across your entire organization. Some customers include companies like Zynga, Motorola, McGraw Hill, CareerBuilder and Agencies of the US Federal Government including the FCC, USPS and the GSA. For more details, please visit

SOURCE Survey Analytics

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