Highmark taps Kinsa to predict the spread of infectious disease

Pittsburgh-based Highmark Health is teaming with Kinsa to harness real-time data to better predict outbreaks of infectious illnesses like influenza and COVID-19.

Highmark, one of the country's largest Blues plans as well as the parent company of health system Allegheny Health Network, will deploy Kinsa's data analytics technology to predict utilization trends and proactively identify potential barriers to managing an influx of care needs such as staffing shortages and a lack of beds.

Kinsa's real-time insights track the prevalence of key symptoms like fever, geographic distribution and the speed of spread, according to an announcement from Highmark.

"Kinsa possesses a unique combination of expertise in both data science and epidemiology," said Richard Clarke, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief analytics officer at Highmark, in the release. "This blended approach of artificial intelligence and medicine not only informs when and where illness will spread, but also helps organizations like Highmark Health to reduce clinical burn-out and accurately anticipate the needs of our customers so we can provide a remarkable health care experience."

Kinsa's platform combines data from multiple sources including a proprietary network of millions of households. Its smart thermometer, guided mobile apps and text alerts allow it to connect with patients when symptoms first develop. That data are then anonymized and used to track and forecast how an illness spreads.

Highmark said Allegheny Health Network will be the first health system to deploy Kinsa's technology to track staffing and bed capacity.

Getting ahead of issues in bed availability and staffing is critical to managing a sizable outbreak, Highmark said, especially as staffing levels may drop as hospital workers get sick themselves.

"When caregivers get sick, we have to shift our personnel," said Brian Parker, M.D., chief quality and learning officer at Allegheny Health Network, in the release. "Knowing which communities will be affected first will allow us to allocate our resources in a much more strategic way."