tech

Fitbit, Apple Watch data may soon help to spot a disease even before you get sick

Stanford University researchers have launched a study to determine if these fitness wearables can be used to detect if someone has a disease, such as Covid-19, even before they start showing symptoms for the same.

The researchers are about to roll out the second phase of its study wherein their system will start sending alerts to those suspecting an infection.
The researchers are about to roll out the second phase of its study wherein their system will start sending alerts to those suspecting an infection. (Pixabay)

Fitness wearables such as Apple Watch and Fitbit fitness trackers have a track record of helping people in case of a health emergency. Reports in the past have documented how these smartwatches have helped in saving the lives of people all over the world. Now, Stanford University researchers want to use these smartwatches as a key weapon in fighting Covid-19.

Stanford University’s Medicine Innovation Lab earlier this year launched a study to determine if these fitness wearables can be used to detect if someone has a disease, such as Covid-19, even before they start showing symptoms for the same.

The researchers are currently looking to recruit participants who will have to share details such as their heart rate, their skin temperature and their blood oxygen saturation levels among other things from their fitness trackers, such as their Apple Watch, with the researchers. Participants will also have to download an app and fill out a survey daily that will help the researchers to closely monitor the participants’ health conditions. Additionally, the researchers will ask the participants to share their medical record information so that they can monitor the participant’s physiological parameters.

As per a report by ZDNet, in the first phase of the study, researchers aim to prove that these fitness wearables can pick up an infection by detecting changes in heart rate and other health physiological conditions. That said, it’s not certain how effective the system would be in differentiating various diseases, such as coronavirus and pneumonia, the diseases that have similar respiratory symptoms. “But the main thing, certainly when you're in a pandemic, is it'll tell you if you're getting ill,” lead researcher Michael Snyder told the publication.

The report says that the researchers are about to roll out the second phase of its study wherein their system will start sending alerts to those suspecting an infection. But participants will have to contextualise that information to determine if it is indeed relevant to them. For instance, the participants can ignore the alert if their heart rate is elevated because they have been out on a run.

Once the system is ready, the team plans to release the software as open source so that it can become a standard part of these fitness wearables.

(Source)