Sickweather is a data aggregation platform that maps and predicts public health. Graham got the idea when he was sick a few years ago. Wondering if other people had similar symptoms, he turned to social media but didn’t really find anything that helped give him an idea of the prevalence of symptoms beyond individual anecdotes. The platform/app grew out of a desire to track sickness in real time, and to map the pain points surrounded the impact of sickness (such as parents’ time off of work with sick children). He saw the opportunity to drive behavioral change, cut healthcare costs, and help people.
The platform aggregates data from social media listening, internet searches and trends, and user self-reports.
Traditional public health takes 1-2 weeks to become aware of a trend in sickness and broadcast news/alerts, which can be the entire life cycle of an illness. Early warning of ‘impending’ sickness has not been available. Early warning/forecasting offers the opportunity to be proactive, rather than reactive in terms of health. If you know the flu is coming/spreading in your area, you can stock up on health supplies, wash your hands more, refill prescriptions, etc.
Sickweather serves as a “Doppler radar” for sickness – mapping out hotspots for specific illnesses. When a user reports an illness, the map drops a pin at that location. The main map displays the top 3 trending illnesses (fever, flu and common cold are going around in OPKS, btw). The app offers sick zone alerts, based on geographic location. If it senses you’re in a geographic area with sickness, a “wash hands” button shows up for 20 seconds, the length of time the CDC advises to wash hands.
Someone asked how the “wash hands” button helped – isn’t it always a good idea to wash your hands? Graham said that the button makes it relevant and timely – the user sees that strep is active in their immediate area, and receives a push notification, reminding them to wash their hands. The “wash hands” signs in public bathrooms are so prevalent now that they’ve become white noise and people don’t pay attention to them as much. But a notice of sickness in your area makes it relevant.
An anecdote: one mom who uses the app saw that strep throat was active in her area. When her son start acting sick, she remembered the alert and got him in to be tested, earlier than she would have ordinarily. Early diagnosis and treatment meant less time off work for her.
The app is available on the Apple watch, with a new algorithm that monitors/maps contagious illness in your vicinity, providing a “sick score” based on contagion likelihood. The Apple watches serve as localized data beacons for sickness.
Sickweather works with advisors from Johns Hopkins to incorporate data from recent medical/health studies, as well as provide data for their studies.
They did an analysis of Twitter mentions of sickness and mapped it to CDC data and found that the reliability was similar. In fact Sickweather data was able to predict the start of flu season 6 weeks earlier than the CDC, based on data they pulled in.
Accuweather and The Weather Channel license their data to broadcast on their channels, showing what illnesses are showing up in specific areas. The data on the Weather Channel app links to the Sickweather app.
Sickweather offers a Pro dashboard, and he mentioned something about clients being able to use it to target ads around sickness outbreaks, but he only barely mentioned it, and I can’t quickly find anything about its availability on their website. He did also briefly mention working with Johnson & Johnson, and that their HealthyDay app uses Sickweather data, but didn’t expand beyond that.
The Sickweather app has ~250K unique users a month.
A new feature launching this month is Sickweather Groups, an in-app feature you can select to join for groups in your area (or where you frequently travel), such as local schools, churches, and companies. When you report an personal illness, you can select to alert the Group, so others in your area are aware (the report shows your general location, but is otherwise anonymous). Verified group admins can message members of a Group with health alerts.
A SMCKC attendee who said she is a nurse said she saw applications for Sickweather to serve as a springboard for medical practice blog content and alerts.
Someone asked if they had considered tying Sickweather to other platforms such as Tinder to map the spread of STDs. Graham said they hadn’t, and that in his experience, people don’t usually talk about having STDs on social media, and Tinder doesn’t have an open API, so it would be harder to aggregate data.
Someone asked if the app feeds into hypochondriacs’ health anxiety, and Graham said he actually spoke to a university professor who wrote a book on hypochondria with a similar concern. They determined that for about half the people, the app assuages concern that one’s symptoms aren’t what is currently trending in the area, and actually puts people at ease. The other half of the people are potential hypochondriacs anyway, and you can’t impact what they’re going to believe.
A few SMCKC housekeeping points:
- All the marketing clubs of KC are having a mass Happy Hour next Thursday 12/10.
- The SMCKC AMPS social media awards are still accepting nominations through Tuesday 12/8.
- SMCKC is accepting participants for the next Ignition session – use your social media superpowers to benefit local non-profits!
- Here’s a recap of the November breakfast on Instagram