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Can wearable devices be used to predict Covid-19?

Wearable devices can play a vital role in predicting certain diseases by combining essential vital signs with clinical symptomology. The use of wearable devices in a bid to combat Covid-19 has therefore been rampant. Research has recently expanded into whether the extensive data that wearable devices collect can predict the onset of the virus. Preliminary data from several studies has shown this is possible.

Researchers at Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute in the US reported that data from the Oura ring, a wearable sleep and activity tracker, can be combined with an app that measures vital signs to predict in advance whether an individual may develop Covid-19 symptoms. The device successfully predicted that an individual would experience symptoms such as a cough, fever, and shortness of breath up to three days before they manifested.

Additionally, the Scripps Research Translational Institute has started the DETECT (Digital Engagement & Tracking for Early Control & Treatment) Study, which uses devices such as Fitbit, Apple Watch, and Garmin among others for tracking heart-rate, activity, and sleep data and matching it with symptom reports submitted by participants to track potential cases of Covid-19. Early results from the study show that Fitbits can predict Covid-19 in 78% of the 14 patients studied.

Although these studies show promise, accuracy remains a concern. Many of the wearables being investigated measure different metrics, which may lead to biased results. Additionally, the wearable market is reliant on consumer purchases and price is one of the leading factors influencing consumers. Therefore, the high cost of wearables may deter the public from purchasing these devices.

Wearables are one of the fastest-growing sectors in the global technology landscape. According to GlobalData estimates, the wearable technology sector is set to reach $54.4bn by 2023, expanding at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19%, with smartwatches representing the largest and fastest-growing segment. Therefore, using wearable devices to track vital Covid-19 symptoms to identify patterns predicting onset is an attractive prospect. However, GlobalData expects there is still a long way to go before these devices can be used to effectively predict Covid-19.

For more insight and data, visit GlobalData's Medical Intelligence Centre

Image: Ouraring