Doctors at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City used smartwatches for early diagnosis of coronavirus and to fight the disease. Specifically, devices made by Apple, Garmin and Fitbit helped identify early signs of infection. Medics said that smart gadgets can detect the presence of COVID-19 seven days before symptoms and deterioration.
In their study, doctors monitored patients’ heart rate variability, that is, the change in intervals between the onset of two cardiac cycles. This indicator can demonstrate the quality of the immune system. In particular, the scientists identified low heart rate variability as one of the signs of coronavirus. High variability, on the other hand, usually indicates that a person’s nervous system is active and copes well with stress.
Researchers monitored 300 Mount Sinai health care workers who wore the Apple Watch between April 29 and September 29. The study found that the watches’ collected data on low heart rate variability was indicative of COVID-19 infection. Experts noted the benefit of the gadgets, as more than half of those who became ill in the U.S. were asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A separate Stanford University study found that 81 percent of those who became ill noticed a change in heart rate about nine and a half days before receiving a positive test for the coronavirus. The patients who participated in the experiment wore trackers and watches from Garmin, Fitbit, and Apple. The study showed that an extremely high heart rate indicated the onset of symptoms.
Experts advise owners of smartwatches to set them up so that the device beeps when it detects elevated heart rate or atypical variability. “This is a big deal because alerted patients know they need to stay home,” noted Stanford University professor Michael Snyder. According to him, one day the scientist was notified of a high heart rate, and the specialist canceled all appointments for the near future.
Snyder said a smartwatch with a heart rate monitor helps monitor health conditions around the clock, whereas without one, a person is unlikely to measure their heart rate often. “The markers collected from wearable devices allow us to identify disease in a non-invasive way,” stressed Mount Sinai Medical Complex associate professor Rob Hirten.