COVID-19 continues to be a significant threat worldwide, and researchers and doctors are always looking for new testing methods to help diagnose people with the condition early so they can quarantine and seek help. A new study conducted by Mount Sinai has found that the Apple Watch can accurately predict a COVID-19 diagnosis up to a week before testing using current PCR-based nasal swabs.
The study was called the “Warrior Watch Study” and used a dedicated Apple Watch and iPhone app. Participants in the study were Mount Sinai staff, and it required them to use an app for health data monitoring and collection. Participants in the study were also asked to fill out a survey each day to give direct information about potential COVID-19 symptoms and other factors such as stress.
The study used several hundred healthcare workers and collected data for several months between April and September. Researchers say the primary biometric marker they were watching was heart rate variability, a key indicator of strain on the nervous system. This information was combined with data about reported symptoms associated with COVID-19, such as fever, eggs, dry cough, gastrointestinal issues, and loss of taste and smell.
The study was able to predict infections up to a week before tests confirmed the diagnosis. The study also found that the heart rate variability normalized fairly quickly after diagnosis returning to normal roughly 1 to 2 weeks following a positive test. Study authors believe the research could help anticipate outcomes and isolate individuals from others who are at risk.
Being able to diagnose COVID-19 remotely also protects medical staff, eliminating the need to do a physical exam or administrator a nasal swab test. The study is ongoing, and the team is currently examining other medical uses for wearables like the Apple Watch and what details they can provide on COVID-19.