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Wearable health technology to help curb the spread of COVID-19

Detection of COVID-19 infection is vital to curbing viral spread throughout the ongoing global pandemic. Current screening protocols focus on symptoms, but a new study indicates that addition of biometric data from wearable health trackers may improve detection of positive COVID-19 cases.

Using a smartphone application-based platform called DETECT (Digital Engagement and Tracking for Early Control and Treatment), researchers at the Scripps Institute enlisted 30,529 individuals in the United States between March and June of this year. Participants shared personal wearable health tracker data, reported any symptoms and uploaded results of diagnostic tests. Of the 3,811 individuals who self-reported symptoms, 54 participants tested positive for COVID-19, whereas 279 tested negative.

The researchers analyzed three metrics from wearable health tracker sensors: resting heart rate, sleep and activity level. Although preliminary, combining these three health metrics with self-reported symptoms was more effective in identifying COVID-19 positive cases (over COVID-19 negative) than symptoms alone. Complementing laboratory-based virus testing with this passive monitoring strategy could improve upon current screening and detection protocols.

As we adapt to the “new normal” of life in a global pandemic, we continuously need to develop new healthcare strategies in response to our evolving knowledge of COVID-19 infections. Employing existing and widespread technology such as wearable health trackers is a promising strategy to identify patients with COVID-19 as early as possible and prevent future viral spread.

-Andrea B

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