BCIT student creates app to pre-screen COVID-19 patients

Nikita Nayak / March 27th, 2020

THE SOLUTION TO A PROBLEM

Verma coded the app with help from his Computer Systems Technology instructor at BCIT.
(Tanush Parkash Verma)

COVID-19 Pre-screener

A BCIT student from India, Tanush Parkash Verma has created an app that can pre-screen COVID-19 patients.

When Verma had a chat with a healthcare professional who was at the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, he found out that the medical centres were seriously crowded—both with people who had and didn’t have COVID-19.

Verma, who will graduate from BCIT in June, decided to put his Computer Systems Technology knowledge to use.

Over the course of two weeks, he coded a web app called, ‘COVID-19 Pre-Screener’.

Verma said his motivation was simply to help the community.

He believes his app will make it easier to detect those experiencing serious symptoms of COVID-19. Once the app is able to filter those people out, they could then be bumped ahead of the line-up at crowded testing centres for priority testing.

“As people wait for their turn to get tested, the infected people increase chances of spreading the infection to people who don’t have the disease. If we could prioritise those with serious symptoms and treated them ASAP, we could avoid further transmission of the disease and flatten the curve.”

Tanush Parkash Verma BCIT Studenthttps://

LOCAL NURSE SPEAKS UP

Verma’s health care contact isn’t the only one speaking up about over-crowding at hospitals. Other professionals are posting videos on social media platforms like Tik Tok. The video below was allegedly posted by a nurse who works in the emergency department at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

In the video, she goes on to say that she believes the number of confirmed cases, and those pending, are higher than what is being reported.

SHORTCOMINGS OF THE APP

Some medical professionals have concerns about replacing the expertise of medical professionals with an app. One registered nurse who works at a large hospital in northern BC (who asked that we withhold her name due to fear of repercussions) said she agrees that hospitals are over-crowded and that the situation has grown worse since the outbreak.

She shares concerns how people are going to doctors in hospitals for minor ailments, even when they don’t necessarily need to. According to her, those people are putting themselves at risk as they come into close contact with the patients that are sick.

“If they don’t have COVID and they go to a doctor/hospital when they don’t need to, they’re increasing their risk of exposure as well as the chances of transmitting to other vulnerable people who could get sick. If they do have COVID but their symptoms aren’t severe enough to warrant an assessment or hospitalisation and they go anyway, they’re potentially exposing everyone they come into contact with.”- (name withheld), Registered Nurse.

She adds that she can definitely see how Verma’s new app could help people determine if their symptoms and circumstances require a hospital visit and if further assessment or testing is needed.

However, she notes that the assessment skills of a doctor or nurse cannot be replaced by an app and that people might go to a hospital regardless of what the app results are.

“It would definitely still be necessary, especially in more severe cases. Some people are so scared of all of this that they would go regardless of what an app like that told them.”

(name withheld) Registered Nurse https://

She adds that one of the key shortcomings of the app would be accessibility. People who do not have a smart phone or tablet would be unable to use the app, as well as those that might not be as technologically literate as the younger generations.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

According to Verma, the app is powered by machine learning. It currently uses randomly generated sample data and predicts the likelihood of someone having the disease with 91% accuracy.

All he needs is real data that describes patients and their symptoms. He has reached out to NDP leader Jagmeet’s Singh’s office and the Prime Minister’s office for pubic data.

“I have an expectation from both Jagmeet Singh’s and Prime Minister Trudeau’s offices, since I talked to them directly.”-Tanush Parkash Verma, BCIT Student

He says that he hopes to get actual data from the government and healthcare professionals so that it can be made a true success.