Today, nearly half of all Americans own a wearable device. These devices can track how many steps a person takes, activity levels, sleep time and quality, and heart rate throughout the day. As the U.S. experiences a new surge in COVID-19 cases, scientists are turning to wearable devices like smartwatches, fitness trackers, biometric rings, and digital patches to find early warning signs that a person might have contracted the virus.
COVID-19 shined a spotlight on the value of wearables and the relevant data these devices offer – collecting and disseminating continuous physiological insights. In conjunction with virtual care strategies, providers use wearables’ data to determine if their patients fall out of the normal range for activity, sleep, or resting heart rate, which usually points to a sign of infection or illness.
Scripps Translational Institute DETECT Study
The lack of fast and reliable testing created one of the most significant challenges for quickly identifying, tracing, and isolating COVID-19 cases before they could spread further. Traditional screening for COVID-19 is a lengthy process that typically involves gathering information about the person’s travel history, survey questions about symptoms, and temperature measurements.
In March 2020, scientists from Scripps Translational Institute launched the DETECT study to determine if wearables such as fitness trackers and smartwatches could detect the onset of COVID-19 symptoms.
Using their mobile app, Validic’s client Scripps used health data from fitness wearables and other devices to identify—with roughly 80% prediction accuracy—whether a person who reported symptoms was likely to have contracted COVID-19. This study showed significant improvement from other models that only evaluated self-reported symptoms.
The DETECT study found that wearable devices like Fitbit can identify cases of COVID-19 by finding changes in heart rate, activity levels, and sleep with the addition of self-reported symptoms. Their data model predicted that a person who had contracted COVID-19 was likely to sleep more and move less based on comparing it to their normal levels, which turned out to be significant factors in predicting coronavirus infection.
Additionally, their findings suggested that activity tracking and health monitoring via consumer wearable devices may be used for the large-scale, real-time detection of respiratory infections, often pre-symptomatically.
“What’s exciting here is that we now have a validated digital signal for COVID-19. The next step is to use this to prevent emerging outbreaks from spreading,” said Eric Topol, Scripps’ director, and founder. “Roughly 100 million Americans already have a wearable tracker or smartwatch and can help us; all we need is a tiny fraction of them—just 1% or 2%—to use the app.”
The Growing Importance of Wearables For Tracking COVID Symptoms
As COVID-19 has devastated the U.S. and care has moved virtual, wearables could help create a revolution in how patients receive healthcare.
Instead of annual appointments or going to the doctor only when a patient feels sick, wearables could alert care teams when detecting abnormalities in a patient’s data, allowing providers to intervene before an adverse event happens. In short, wearables can help us realize we’re getting sick before we realize on our own. They can help treatments begin sooner and they alert health teams about potential complications before symptoms worsen.
Wearables have drastically improved the accuracy and reliability of remote patient monitoring by providing real-time data to clinicians. Continuous data enables cardiologists to review heart function for patients with heart failure day-to-day and month-to-month, rather than from one visit to the next–often spanning three or more months. The Apple Watch Series 4 has a feature that lets its users capture an electrocardiogram reading from their wrist, providing critical data to their physicians.
Validic’s List Of Devices To Use For COVID-19 Detection
In the wake of another surge in COVID-19 cases, healthcare organizations, public health officials, and self-insured employers continue to look for effective and simple ways to monitor high-risk individuals in their population for COVID-19. The key biometrics and symptoms to monitor are body temperature, oxygen saturation, difficulty breathing, and coughing.
At Validic, our goal is to continue to serve people with technology that makes care delivery more effective, affordable, and accessible. Our blog, Best Connected Devices and Data to Support COVID-19, provides a full of devices that you can utilize to better help your members manage and track their health during COVID-19, monitoring specifically for known symptoms of the virus.
Validic’s COVID-19 Home Monitoring Solution
To address COVID-19, Validic launched a monitoring solution designed to observe, analyze, and triage individuals remotely for the emergence of COVID-19 symptoms.
Validic’s COVID-19 Home Monitoring solution tracks a person’s body temperature, difficulty breathing, cough frequency, and oxygen saturation (SpO2). The solution provides real-time analysis and escalation of acute symptom and health data to care management teams, public health officials, and/or Human Resource administrators.
To empower people on the frontlines of this health crisis, the solution is designed for rapid deployment. It can be implemented and launched within hours. The solution, built on Validic’s legacy health data platform, can scale to support any size deployment – from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of enrolled patients or employees. It includes a bulk enrollment feature that makes onboarding easy and quick.
For more information on Validic’s COVID-19 response, please visit https://www.covidmonitoring.com/ or learn more about Validic’s remote patient monitoring solution at https://validic.com/solutions/impact/.
Quer, G., Radin, J.M., Gadaleta, M. et al. Wearable sensor data and self-reported symptoms for COVID-19 detection. Nat Med (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-1123-x
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