Study Finds Apple Watch Can Predict COVID-19 Diagnoses a Week Early

A study claims that Apple Watch can predict a COVID-19 diagnosis a week before testing.

Mount Sinai’s Warrior Watch Study is one of the first on the topic of wearable devices being used to identify COVID-19 in people, and it turns out that wearing such a device can identify the virus up to seven days earlier than current testing methods, such as nasal swabs.

The researchers found that subtle changes in a participant’s heart rate variability (HRV) measured by an Apple Watch were able to signal the onset of COVID-19 up to seven days before the individual was diagnosed with the infection via nasal swab, and also to identify those who have symptoms.

“This study highlights the future of digital health,” said the study’s corresponding author Robert Hirten, Assistant Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “It shows that we can use these technologies to better address evolving health needs, which will hopefully help us improve the management of disease.”

The researchers also observed that the HRV pattern began to normalize between 7 and 14 days after COVID-19 diagnosis, and was no longer statistically different from the patterns of those who were not infected. They suggest that wearables could be used to monitor patients remotely and intervene if or when necessary — a useful approach during periods of restricted movement and social contact.

The next step for the study is to analyze biometric indicators like HRV, sleep disruption and physical activity to identify which healthcare workers could be at risk of the psychological effects of the pandemic.

Hirten said that 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.