Background: We developed a self-assessment and participatory web-based triage app to assess the trends of the COVID-19 pandemic in France in March 2020.
Objective: We compared daily large-scale RT-PCR test results to monitor recent reports of anosmia through a web-based app to assess the dynamics of emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions among individuals with COVID-19 in France.
Methods: Between March 21 and November 18, 2020, users of the maladiecoronavirus.fr self-triage app were asked questions about COVID-19 symptoms. Data on daily hospitalizations, large-scale positive results on RT-PCR tests, emergency department visits, and ICU admission of individuals with COVID-19 were compared to data on daily reports of anosmia on the app.
Results: As of November 18, 2020, recent anosmia was reported 575,214 times from among approximately 13,000,000 responses. Daily anosmia reports during peak engagement with the app on September 16, 2020, were spatially correlated with the peak in daily COVID-19-related hospitalizations in November 2020 (Spearman rank correlation coefficient [ρ]=0.77; P<.001). This peak in daily anosmia reports was observed primarily among young adults (age range 18-40 years), being observed 49 days before the peak of hospitalizations that corresponded to the first wave of infections among the young population, followed by a peak in hospitalizations among older individuals (aged ≥50 years) in November 2020. The reduction in the daily reports of anosmia associated with the peaks in the number of cases preceded the reduction in daily hospitalizations by 10 and 9 days during the first and the second waves of infection, respectively, although the reduction in the positivity rates on RT-PCR tests preceded the reduction in daily hospitalizations by only 2 days during the second wave of infections.
Conclusions: Data on daily reports of anosmia collected through a nationwide, web-based self-assessment app can be a relevant tool to anticipate surges in outbreaks, hospitalizations, and ICU admission during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT04331171; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04331171.
Keywords: COVID-19; France; app; big data; diagnosis; diagnostic test; digital health; mobile phone; observational; participatory app; self-assessment; surveillance; trend; web-based app.
©Fabrice Denis, Arnaud Fontanet, Yann-Mael Le Douarin, Florian Le Goff, Stephan Jeanneau, François-Xavier Lescure. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 12.03.2021.