Newly-published findings indicate that software included in the Apple Watch has the ability to predict the onset of COVID-19 up to one week before an infected individual is administered a PCR-based nasal swab test.
The study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Internet Research, determined officials could make an early diagnosis by specifically reviewing changes in a participants’ heart rate variability (HRV), which they were able to monitor through the Apple Watch. Researchers from New York’s Mount Sinai Health System explained in their findings that HRV is a key indicator of the status of a person’s nervous system.
In conjunction with the HRV monitor, officials required individuals to submit a daily survey that asked for feedback about their potential COVID-19 symptoms and associated stress factors. Individuals who were part of the study were health care workers enrolled with Mount Sinai between April and September 2020.
Some symptoms that officials reported through the survey included fever, chills, tiredness, body aches, sneezing, diarrhea, sore throat, headache and loss of smell or taste, among other conditions.
“This study highlights the future of digital health," Robert P. Hirten, the lead author of the study, said in a statement accompanying a Monday Mount Sinai release. "It shows that we can use these technologies to better address evolving health needs, which will hopefully help us improve the management of disease.”
“Our goal is to operationalize these platforms to improve the health of our patients and this study is a significant step in that direction. Developing a way to identify people who might be sick even before they know they are infected would be a breakthrough in the management of COVID-19," he added.
Dubbed the Warrior Watch Study, the campaign allowed researchers to determine that patient HRV levels normalized some 7 to 14 days after an official COVID-19 diagnosis was made, and that they were no different from participants who had not been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the deadly virus that causes COVID-19.
On a grander scale, researchers concluded that the study results can help to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus by giving officials another option to detect the early emergence of the virus, highlighting the use of Apple Watches allows for an early diagnosis to be done remotely.
The investigation will be ongoing as officials seek to examine participants’ sleep disruptions and physical activity to pinpoint which health professionals are most at risk for the psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.