The use and impact of digital COVID-19 tracking in adult social care: a prospective cohort study of care homes in Greater Manchester

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BACKGROUND: To support proactive care during the coronavirus pandemic, a digital COVID-19 symptom tracker was deployed in Greater Manchester (UK) care homes. This study aimed to understand what factors were associated with the post-uptake use of the tracker and whether the tracker had any effects in controlling the spread of COVID-19.

METHODS: Daily data on COVID-19, tracker uptake and use, and other key indicators such as staffing levels, the number of staff self-isolating, availability of personal protective equipment, bed occupancy levels, and any problems in accepting new residents were analysed for 547 care homes across Greater Manchester for the period April 2020 to April 2021. Differences in tracker use across local authorities, types of care homes, and over time were assessed using correlated effects logistic regressions. Differences in numbers of COVID-19 cases in homes adopting versus not adopting the tracker were compared via event design difference-in-difference estimations.

RESULTS: Homes adopting the tracker used it on 44% of days post-adoption. Use decreased by 88% after one year of uptake (odds ratio 0.12; 95% confidence interval 0.06-0.28). Use was highest in the locality initiating the project (odds ratio 31.73; 95% CI 3.76-268.05). Care homes owned by a chain had lower use (odds ratio 0.30; 95% CI 0.14-0.63 versus single ownership care homes), and use was not associated with COVID-19 or staffing levels. Tracker uptake had no impact on controlling COVID-19 spread. Staff self-isolating and local area COVID-19 cases were positively associated with lagged COVID-19 spread in care homes (relative risks 1.29; 1.2-1.4 and 1.05; 1.0-1.1, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: The use of the COVID-19 symptom tracker in care homes was not maintained except in Locality 1 and did not appear to reduce the COVID-19 spread. COVID-19 cases in care homes were mainly driven by care home local-area COVID-19 cases and infections among the staff members. Digital deterioration trackers should be co-produced with care home staff, and local authorities should provide long-term support in their adoption and use.

Original languageEnglish
Article number47
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2023


  • Adult
  • Humans
  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Nursing Homes
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pandemics
  • Personal Protective Equipment


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