Mobile Health

The Apple Respiratory Study – can the Apple Watch detect COVID-19?

Back in January, the results of a Stanford study made us wonder; could smartwatches detect COVID-19? Apple definitely seems to think so as they recently announced the Apple Respiratory Study.

Apple Watch or Swiss Army knife?

It can detect atrial fibrillation at home or in the hospital. It can stop nightmares in PTSD patients. Oah – it can also tell time and record your running. Early iterations of the Apple Watch showed its developers how useful it can be in health settings. Apple didn’t dawdle; they hired experts and set out to make the Apple Watch a must have accessory for people that want to track their well being. Now, the Apple Respiratory Study could make the Apple Watch a mainstay for anyone that wants to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The Apple Respiratory Study

Researchers from the Seattle Flu Study and the University of Washington are teaming up with Apple to understand how everyday devices, like an Apple Watch or iPhone, can be used to predict illnesses like COVID-19. The goal of the study is to see if the information collected by the Apple Watch and iPhone can detect early signs of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19. No concrete information about the algorithm that the Apple Watch will use is available. For all we know, this will be a more of a data-gathering study than a validation of something that’s already in the works.

In all likelihood, Apple’s data will not be all too different from Fitbit’s experiment. The disproportionality between daily activity and heart rate will probably be central to detecting asymptomatic COVID cases. The Apple Watch 6 can also detect hypoxia. That said, the sample size with the latest watch will likely be too small to draw actionable conclusions. Low oxygen also tends to be symptomatic – its usefulness monitoring COVID-19 patients is great; its value in limiting the spread of COVID on the other hand, not too great.

If you’re aged 22 years or older, live in the greater Seattle area and don’t plan on moving out soon, think about participating in the study – you’d be part of history in the making.

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