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COVID-19

Study: Smartwatches could be used to predict COVID-19 in patients

In the study, participants examined 72 students and 43 medical interns at a university and tracked data from Fitbits and self-reported COVID-19 diagnoses.

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smart watch with a blank black screen is on his left hand, his right hand is touching the watch screen, a freelancer’s workplace with an open notebook, top view, work at home
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By Joe Morgan via SWNS

Smartwatches could be used to predict flu or COVID-19 in patients and test how sick they get, according to a new study.

New experiments with measuring heart rates on smartwatches could also be used for other uses such as flu and the common cold.

Researchers discovered people ill with COVID-19 have a significant heart rate increase per step which suggests this could be used to measure how symptomatic a person is.

In the study, participants examined 72 students and 43 medical interns at a university and tracked data from Fitbits and self-reported COVID-19 diagnoses.

It found that a daily base heart rate increased on the onset of symptoms, which could be attributed to fever, stress, or anxiety.

But the researchers also found that participants had a circadian phase uncertainty, the body's inability to time daily events, which corresponded with the early stages of infection.

Professor Daniel Forger, at the University of Michigan, said: "We found that COVID dampened biological timekeeping signals, changed how your heart rate responds to activity, altered basal heart rate and caused stress signals.

"What we realized was knowledge of physiology, how the body works and mathematics can help us get more information from these wearables."

Caleb Mayer, doctoral student in mathematics, said: "There's been some previous work on understanding disease through wearable heart rate data, but I think we really take a different approach by focusing on decomposing the heart rate signal into multiple different components to take a multidimensional view of heart rate.

"All of these components are based on different physiological systems.

"This really gives us additional information about disease progression and understanding how disease impacts these different physiological systems over time."

Dr. Sung Won Choi, associate professor of pediatrics, said: "The global outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus imposed important public health measures, which impacted our daily lives.

"However, during this historical event in time, mobile technology offered enormous capabilities—the ability to monitor and collect physiological data longitudinally from individuals noninvasively and remotely."

Professor Srijan Sen, director of the University of Michigan Eisenberg Family Depression Center, said: "Identifying the varying patterns of different heart rate parameters derived from wearables across the course of COVID-19 infection is a substantial advance for the field.

"This work can help us more meaningfully follow populations in future COVID-19 waves. The study also demonstrates following cohorts with mobile technology and robust data sharing can facilitate unanticipated and valuable discoveries."

The study was published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine.

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