Skip to main content

Apple Watch could be used to detect coronavirus infections

Current testing for coronavirus generally involves waiting until someone is sick before getting them tested and then trying to isolate them afterward if their test is positive. If we could easily identify people who are infected before they start showing symptoms, we’d be able to contain and treat them more effectively — and this may be possible using wearable health devices like the Apple Watch.

A study by researchers at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital, reported by CBS, shows how Apple Watches could spot a coronavirus infection before a diagnosis.

The researchers used data from Apple Watches to track a metric called HRV, or heart rate variability, which measures how much the time between a person’s heartbeats changes throughout the day. High HRV means that the person’s nervous system is responding to cues in a healthy and active way, while a low HRV implies that the nervous system could be struggling to adapt to changes. Scientists know that low HRV can predict if a person may be infected by a virus, so the researchers wanted to check whether it could be used to predict coronavirus infections in particular.

The researchers measured HRV from nearly 300 healthcare workers in the Mount Sinai Health System who volunteered to wear an Apple Watch and who download a special app for tracking their HRV. Of these healthcare workers who did catch coronavirus, the researchers found that changes in HRV occurred seven days before a positive coronavirus test was performed.

This means that changes in HRV as measured through a device like an Apple Watch could be used to identify coronavirus infections even before people realize that they are sick.

Advances in digital health provide a unique opportunity to enhance disease containment,” the authors write, pointing out that people are already familiar with wearables like the Apple Watch for health monitoring, and that they have the advantage of not needing people to do anything active in order for data to be collected on them. This is compared to other options like using an app to track vital signs, which can be time-consuming and people can easily forget to do.

The paper has not yet been peer-reviewed, which means it has not yet been scrutinized by the medical community and its findings should be considered speculative. But it does point to a way that wearables like the Apple Watch could help with the identification, tracking, or monitoring of diseases like the coronavirus in the future.

A pre-print version of the paper is available on medRxiv.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
Apple may have delayed a critical Apple Watch upgrade
Smart Stack on the Apple Watch Series 9.

It seems Apple’s highly anticipated display upgrades, especially for the Apple Watch, will have to wait a few more years. According to Bloomberg, Apple has shuttered in-house efforts to design and develop microLED panels that would have appeared on its smartwatches — and eventually more products down the road.

The current-gen Apple smartwatches rely on an OLED panel, but Apple has been eyeing microLED screens for the Apple Watch's future iterations. These in-house panels, which would have offered “brighter and more vibrant visuals,” were ultimately put on cold ice due to cost and complexity concerns.

Read more
Why you shouldn’t buy a new Apple Watch right now
The curved screen on the Apple Watch Series 9.

It has been over six months since the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 launched, and they are still considered two of the best smartwatches on the market. However, there are two significant reasons why you might not want to purchase either of these models.

Those reasons are the Apple Watch Series 8 and the first-generation Apple Watch Ultra. That's right — buying a 2022 Apple Watch over the newer models might be a better choice for you.
Why now's a great time to buy an old Apple Watch
The Apple Watch Series 9 (top) and Apple Watch Series 8 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Read more
8 watches you should buy instead of an Apple Watch
A person wearing the Apple Watch Series 9.

The Apple Watch Series 9 is the best smartwatch you can buy, regardless of the fact you can only use it with an iPhone. It's also great that it comes in three flavors — the Series 9, along with the Apple Watch SE 2, and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 — to suit many more people and pockets than you may first think. However, perhaps you want something a little different on your wrist or even a weekend alternative when you don’t feel like wearing a touchscreen watch.

That’s where this list should help you out, as we’ve gathered eight watches to buy instead of the Apple Watch. Notice I said “watches,” and not just smartwatches, as some non-connected wristwear has been included. Our choices cover the entire Apple Watch range in terms of price, even going above and below, to give you some real inspiration about a watch to buy instead of — or as well as — the superb Apple Watch.
Casio G-Shock GPR-H1000 Rangeman
Casio G-Shock Rangeman Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Read more