New studies show how Apple Watch can help detect COVID-19 prior to symptoms and testing

A couple of new studies highlighted by a CBS News report indicate that smartwatches like the Apple Watch can help detect COVID-19 prior to the onset of symptoms or a positive test. The studies, conducted separately by Mount Sinai Health System in New York and Stanford University in California, are giving experts hope that the Apple Watch can help « play a vital role in stopping the pandemic and other communicable diseases. « .

Research by Mount Sinai found that the Apple Watch is capable of detecting « subtle changes in a person’s heartbeat » up to seven days before the onset of COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test. The study looked at heart rate variability, or the variation in time between beats, and included nearly 300 healthcare workers who wore Apple watches between April 29 and September 29.

This is a commonly used measure of how well a person’s immune system is working, the report explains.

« Our goal was to use tools to identify infections at the time of infection or before people knew they were sick, » said Rob Hirten, assistant professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. and author of Warrior Watch. study.

« We already knew that heart rate variability markers change as inflammation develops in the body, and Covid is an incredibly inflammatory event, » Hirten told CBS MoneyWatch. « It allows us to predict that people are infected before they know it. »

“Right now, we trust people who say they are sick and not feeling well, but wearing an Apple Watch does not require any active user participation and can identify people who may be asymptomatic. It’s a way to better control infectious diseases, ”Hirten said.

Meanwhile, a separate Stanford study, the results of which were released in November, included activity trackers from Garmin, Fitbit and Apple. The study found that these devices could indicate changes in resting heart rate « up to nine and a half days before the onset of symptoms » in coronavirus-positive patients.

The researchers were able to identify nearly two-thirds of COVID-19 cases four to seven days before symptoms, according to the study.

The team has also created an alarm system that alerts users that their heart rate has risen for an extended period.

« We set the alarm somewhat sensitively so that it goes off every two months or so, » said Stanford University professor Michael Snyder, who led the study. « Regular fluctuations will not trigger the alarm, only significant and sustained changes will. »

« It’s a big problem because it alerts people not to go out and meet people, » he added. When Snyder’s alarm sounded recently, for example, he canceled an in-person meeting in case it could be contagious.

Snyder went on to explain that this type of technology can help compensate for flaws in testing strategies. « The problem is, you can’t do [tests] on people all the time, whereas these devices measure you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, » he explained.

Apple did not fund or participate in any of these studies, unlike other smartwatch and wearable companies that have commissioned similar studies, such as Oura Health and Whoop.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a model last week that indicates how the Apple Watch and other smartwatches can help slow the spread of COVID-19 by asymptomatic carriers.

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