Smartwatches may offer early COVID-19 infection detection

Posted on Tuesday, Jan 19 2021 @ 11:24 CET by Thomas De Maesschalck
Are advanced smartwatches and fitness trackers capable of offering an early warning about infections? It's been a contested topic for years now but a new study from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City, suggest the Apple Watch can predict a COVID-19 infection a full week before the wearer develops symptoms.

In the study group, significant changes in heart rate variability (HRV) were measured up to seven days before a nasal swab confirmed COVID-19 infection:
In a study titled called “Warrior Watch,” the Mount Sinai researchers followed a group of 297 health care workers between April 29 and September 29. The participants wore Apple Watches equipped with special apps that measured changes in their heart rate variability (HRV). “The watch showed significant changes in HRV metrics up to seven days before individuals had a positive nasal swab confirming COVID-19 infection,” said study author Robert P. Hirten, MD.
Engadget reports a similar study performed by Stanford University found that 81 percent of patients wearing devices from Garmin, Fitbit, Apple and others had changes in HRV up to nine and a half days before becoming symptomatic.
The ramifications of the studies are clear. “Developing a way to identify people who might be sick even before they know they are infected would really be a breakthrough in the management of COVID-19,” Dr. Hirten said. “This technology allows us not only to track and predict health outcomes, but also to intervene in a timely and remote manner, which is essential during a pandemic that requires people to stay apart.”
The article notes a company called NeuTigers is working on a clinical-grade patient monitoring wearable that can detect COVID-19 infections at a rate of 90 percent. The firm, which was born out of research from Princeton University, eventually plans to make an app that's compatible with Fitbit, Withings, Apple, Samsung and other smartwatches.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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