Letter
Open Access

A corona virus tracker for clinicians and students: Assessing education during an evolving phenomenon

Kacper Niburski[1][a], Oskar Niburski[2]

Institution: 1. McGill University, 2. York University
Corresponding Author: Mr Kacper Niburski ([email protected])
Categories: Assessment, Learning Outcomes/Competency, Teaching and Learning, Technology
Published Date: 26/05/2020
Keywords: coronavirus; covid-19; medical education; web application; epidemiology

Letter

In a novel pandemic, knowledge is paramount to ensure evidence-based, appropriate treatments. Unfortunately, the sources of information in an evolving situation are varied, often influenced by pseudo-science, and can be sensationalized (Geldsetzer, 2020). Furthermore, there are few sources that teach the findings in ways accessible to both the public and clinicians.

 

Methodology

We created a tracker (whohascoronavirus.com) on March 1st to teach treatment and the epidemiology of COVID-19 to healthcare practitioners and general public. Daily briefings from the WHO were collected, displaying death rates, recovery rates, active cases, and total cases of respective countries, individual regions, and states. Clinical information regarding treatment modalities, radiographic images, and was summarized from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Ethics exemption was received from Ilde Lepore, McGill Medicine's Institutional Review Board ethics officer, due to the public availability of the information and the lack of reasonable expectation of privacy on a public website with public information.

 

Results

Over the months, thousands visited the site, with an average of 5.2 minutes on site. 250 users were sampled randomly within a week (April 1 – April 8). 58% (n=145) reported to be healthcare practitioners, with 68% (n=98) being medical students, 22% (n=33) nurses, 10% (n=14) clinicians, and the rest being the general public. On a scale from 1-5, 5 being very improved, healthcare practitioners reported improvement in general knowledge (2.3 ± 0.4 to 4.4 ± 0.6, p<0.01), improvement in understanding of the epidemiological situation of the corona virus (1.8 ± 1.1 to 4.5 ± 0.3, p<0.01), improvement in clinical treatment (3.4 ± 0.4 to 4.0 ± 0.3, p<0.05), with the most observed increases in medical students and nursing. General public saw similar increases in general knowledge (1.1 ± 0.9 to 3.7 ± 0.5, p<0.01). Both groups (n=90, 62% in healthcare, n-82, 78% general population) stated that having knowledge made them feel less anxious about the pandemic. 90% of total users (n=225) stated they’d visit the site again the following day, to continue monitoring information and growth of COVID-19.

 

Discussion

These results are the first to detail the findings of a web educational initiative for COVID-19. They show that when facts are appropriately sourced and manageably displayed, there is greater understanding in both clinician and general public. These gains are seen most in medical students, as well in lay comprehension of the novel pandemic.

 

During times of uncertainty and need for knowledge, such a resource could help provide clues on how to best educate on an evolving situation. Unproven treatments tend to get airtime, due to both controversy and influence (Liu et al., 2020). As a result, technologies have to be limber, worked with daily, and enable the highest level of accurate information. The future work of education must address the flexibility necessary for a changing situation by itself being limber. Such data would provide a fuller picture of the pandemic and allow clinicians to learn as treatment modalities change and resources become stretched.

Take Home Messages

  • Corona virus's rapid nature requires new means of educational intervention
  • Educational online tools can be used to increase general knowledge for lay people and healthcare practitioners
  • Difficult concepts like epidemiology can be made understandable on online mediums

Notes On Contributors

Kacper Niburski is a third year medical student at McGill University. He is interested in how technology can be used to increase medical education. See his work at: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1519-1842.

Oskar Niburski is a software engineer working at the forefront of tech. He is interested in discovering new ways of analyzing data, to provide evidence-based decisions. 

Acknowledgements

None.

Bibliography/References

Geldsetzer, P. (2020). 'Knowledge and Perceptions of COVID-19 Among the General Public in the United States and the United Kingdom: A Cross-sectional Online Survey', Annals Of Internal Medicine. https://doi.org/10.7326/M20-0912

Liu, M., Caputi, T., Dredze, M., Kesselheim, A., et al. (2020). 'Internet Searches for Unproven COVID-19 Therapies in the United States', JAMA Internal Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.1764

Appendices

None.

Declarations

There are no conflicts of interest.
This has been published under Creative Commons "CC BY-SA 4.0" (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/)

Ethics Statement

Ethics exemption was received from Ilde Lepore, McGill Medicine's Institutional Review Board ethics officer, due to the public availability of the information and the lack of reasonable expectation of privacy on a public website with public information.

External Funding

This article has not had any External Funding

Reviews

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Richard Hays - (11/06/2020) Panel Member Icon
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I found this an interesting report, although I am not sure that the idea was new and I am not sure what other apps were available at the time. Was this the first such source available? Where I live, a similar app was released by the Government at about the same time so that all citizens could gain access more easily to the latest local, national and international information. It is useful, although my professional networks send me daily updates on relevant clinical information so I have not often needed to use the app. This app seems to be a combination of the two approaches, with more clinically oriented information. It would be interesting to see longer term usage data. It may well prove to be useful beyond the medical school system in which was developed.
Possible Conflict of Interest:

For transparency, I am the Editor =-i0Chief of MedEdPublish, although this is a personal view.

P Ravi Shankar - (02/06/2020) Panel Member Icon
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This is an interesting letter describing the ‘visitors’ perception of a coronavirus tracker (www.whohascoronavirus.com). The authors have put together a dynamic website to track the rapidly evolving pandemic. The graphs are interesting and up-to-date. The authors have a button to toggle between information for patient and information for clinicians which I think is a cool feature. The site provides basic information about the pandemic. The numbers however in the tables regarding total cases and total deaths may not be current. Also, in the ensuing three months since the site was first developed the distribution of cases globally has changed with the United States, Russia, Turkey and developing countries like Brazil, India and Peru accounting for an increasing number of cases. I am sure the authors may find keeping the website updated a challenge and will be interested in knowing how they do so. This is a good initiative and readers will find it to be of interest.
Felix Silwimba - (27/05/2020)
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it is important to keep information flowing and tracking it. this was a goof initiative
Virginia Randall - (26/05/2020)
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I was glad to see this website created and used to provide healthcare practitioners with accurate information. I went to the website and it displays the information in clear charts and graphs and does not have an overwhelming amount displayed. But, I wish it had an update on treatment and prevention written for the practitioners (here is where it seems the most pseudoscience is published). I would also liked to have seen the results presented as a table rather than in a written paragraph. I'm left wondering what the response rate was of their sample, how many have visited the site, but most of all, how many man hours is it taking to keep the statistics up to date for so many countries??

This is a great way to push out accurate information quickly. And it certainly is true, accurate information is important to reduce anxiety and put fear into context. It is a good model for dissemination of accurate information quickly, but relies on availability of the internet and the capability and man hours to keep it up to date.

Publicizing would be important (I teach in a medical school and this is the first of I seen this website.)