New online version of COVID-19 app for computers and tablets

Tue, 21/04/2020 - 09:51 -- Editor

The Department of Health has launched an online version of the Covid-19 NI app to help people across Northern Ireland stay informed.

This website widens accessibility to the app’s content, serving those who do not have a smartphone but are able to use a computer or tablet device.

Like the app, this companion website provides advice to the public on Covid-19 and its symptoms.

In conjunction with the 111 NI Helpline, the app and website help relieve pressure on frontline care services.

The online version of the app is hosted on a new website https://covid-19.hscni.net . Like the smartphone app, it will help members of the public to:

  • decide if they or someone they care for have the symptoms of coronavirus
  • understand the severity of their symptoms and what to do and how to cope
  • decide if they need to get clinical advice and how to access it
  • access specific advice for vulnerable members of the community
  • get an isolation note if they are advised to self-isolate
  • ask specific questions of the advice and guidance using a smart search ‘chat-bot’ that searches FAQs for relevant information
  • find links to other trusted information resources.

The website also supports a range of additional information for the public, with plans to increase this in the coming weeks. The smart search ‘chat-bot’ has inbuilt analytics, allowing us to understand what issues are causing concern, and develop content in line with the public demand for information.

The Department of Health has worked in partnership with two Belfast businesses, Civica and BigMotive, to build the smartphone app and the new website.

The 111 Covid-19 NI helpline received thousands calls each day from worried citizens after its introduction. The mobile smartphone app has been widely downloaded with over 48,000 active users and up to 6,000 people using it each day to assess their symptoms, or find other information. It has, to date, attracted strong approval ratings from users in NI.

Dan West, the Department of Health’s Chief Digital Information Officer said: “We are striving to improve the helpline and the app, so that more members of the public in Northern Ireland can find the vital information they need, without having to reach out to front-line health and care workers for help.

“Version 2 of the app was launched 8th April 2020, and we are already working on Version 3, adding functionality, and refining the app further, through user testing and feedback.”

The process to design and test the app (in smartphone and online versions) has involved members of the public, and is aligned with accessibility guidelines, ensuring that the needs of all members of the public who could use the app are taken into account.

The current version of the app doesn’t ask users to submit any personal data other than their age, to determine the advice they receive, and their post code, to ensure they are a Northern Ireland resident. Users are encouraged to continue in helping to improve the app through feedback.

Mr West continued: “The data the app provides, combined with other sources of data, will assist considerably in building a comprehensive picture of how Covid-19 is impacting in Northern Ireland. It also helps model at a population level any changing patterns of symptoms, or of numbers of people affected by symptoms. This will be invaluable as we consider exiting the Covid ‘lockdown’.”