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Could Health Wearables Detect COVID-19?

By Miriam Bello | Fri, 09/25/2020 - 13:50

Among the technological tools that COVID-19 has accelerated in healthcare, wearables are a primary example.  While these devices were not purposely made to aid during a global pandemic, their main target did focus around connecting the user with their health status. Depending on the wearable, these devices offer indicators for heart rate, sleep rate, physical activity, sometimes emotional status or the types of food the user consumes.  Wearables collect this data into a personal health and exercise record that comes very handy for medical professionals when they need it. Gino Scarangella Sr. Director of Life Sciences NAM at Dassault Systèmes explained in an interview to MBN the importance of such records “this tracing allows medical professionals to deliver a more accurate diagnosis based on the person’s accumulated data, instead of basing the diagnosis on just the most recent symptoms or vital signs.”

There are different types of devices depending on what the user is interested on measuring, for instance:

  • Fitness trackers, often on a wristband presentation to track physical activity, steps and heart rate.
  • Smart health devices, often in watch presentation. These type of devices offers exercise tracking, heart rate, step counting and sometimes they can measure stress, recovery, activity, and sleep. Depending of the brand, these watches can connect to the user’s phone and send their information to apps that alert about arrhythmias.

On a study posted by Frontiers in Digital Health, it is described the useful health indicators that medical or health devices should include or that are already including and have been mentioned above: cardiovascular monitoring, respiratory monitoring, oxygen saturation and temperature.

However, healthcare entrepreneur company Aidicare explained to MBN how the have developed an exclusive wearable that measures much more “Aidicare Life, is designed to help patients care for their health outside the hospital through a wearable and an app that tracks the person’s vital signs, including sleep patterns, physical activity, daily steps, weight control, glucose control, heart rate, blood pressure, oximetry and temperature,” said Juan Cáceres, CEO of Aidicare. According to Cáceres, what it is unique about their development is that it was thought to be used by medical professionals and by users. 

With a wearable that included all this metrics, couldn’t they be used to detect COVID-19 symptoms? According to the study of Frontiers in Digital Health, these devices can potentially detect if the user is presenting significant illness symptoms before they fully develop clinical symptoms. Through changes in heart rhythm, skin temperature and oxygen saturation, wearables are a first-hand tool to detect any anomaly on a user and prevent the person beforehand. An early detection of COVID-19 would mean less risks for the person with SARS-CoV-2 virus as they would be able to look for professional help before developing serious complications and they would also stop the chain of contagion. Moreover, through the use of apps or social media, the user could notify people near them that they tested positive for COVID-19. In fact, companies like Apple are already integrating these services. Apple, supported by governmental information, has released and updated that information, based on information shared by local governments and can alert citizens of near COVID-19 cases to prevent contagion.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst