A group of researchers have found that specific features of the Apple Watch can detect small changes to a user's heartbeat which could indicate a sign of being affected with the coronavirus, a full week before they actually start feeling sick.
According to a report of CBS News, a company is even developing a custom wearable to detect Covid-19 — this would specifically keep the asymptomatic Covid patients at home, reports Engadget.
In a study titled called "Warrior Watch," the researchers of Mount Sinai 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.
A similar study done by Stanford University found that participants wearing a variety of trackers from Garmin, Fitbit, Apple and others found that 81 percent of patients testing positive for coronavirus had changes in their resting heart rate up to nine and half days prior to the onset of symptoms.
One of the challenging things about Covid-19 is that many people are asymptomatic, meaning they have no symptoms but are still contagious. This makes it difficult to contain this infection by using the traditional method of identifying someone who is sick and quarantining them.
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."
Apart from the researchers, a company called NeuTigers, born out of research from Princeton University, has already developed an artificial intelligence product called CovidDeep that can help identify people with the virus in clinical situations or care homes.
The company used a clinical-grade patient monitoring wearable, the Empatica E4, to take a variety of skin, heart-rate and blood pressure readings. Feeding that information into CovidDeep, they found they could detect the virus at a rate of 90 percent — more accurately than typical temperature screenings. They eventually plan to produce their own app that could work with Fitbit, Withings, Apple, Samsung and other smartwatches.