Smartwatches have a number of sensors onboard that can track a user’s heartbeat, skin temperature, SpO2 levels, and more. This not only helps detect other medical conditions but early COVID-19 symptoms as well, shows a new study conducted by leading academic and medical institutions.
Smartwatches from Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Fitbit, and several other brands could indicate whether the wearer is positive for COVID-19, even in the early stages. This was discovered by a study conducted at Mount Sinai Health System, and Stanford University, both in the US.
The study involved having 300 health workers wearing Apple watches for 153 days from April to September 2020. This showed that a person’s heartbeat readings can be used to detect COVID-19 since heart rate variability is an indicator of how well the immune system is working. People who had COVID-19 were observed to have a lower heart rate variability compared to those who didn’t have the virus.
Higher variability in the time between heartbeats does not indicate an elevated heartbeat but shows that a person’s nervous system is quite active, adaptable, and better at coping with stress.
A separate study conducted by researchers at Stanford University had people wear smartwatches from different brands for multiple months. It was observed that 81% of the COVID-19 positive participants had an elevated increase in their normal resting heart rates up to 9 days before symptoms started to show.
This allowed them to successfully detect COVID-19 in 66% of the cases before symptoms started showing.
Smartwatch companies including Apple were not involved in the study but were made aware of the potential of their wearables.