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The paper has not yet been peer-reviewed, which means it has not yet been scrutinized by the medical community and its findings should be considered speculative.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…
I replaced my Apple Watch with a Garmin — and I don’t want to go back
Apple Watch Series 7 next to the Garmin Forerunner 265.

The Apple Watch has been my go-to wearable for years. I began my journey with the Apple Watch Series 1 in 2017, upgraded to the Apple Watch Series 4 shortly after it launched, and then jumped to the Apple Watch Series 7 in 2021. It's long been my smartwatch platform of choice, and I've never had any desire to switch to something else.

At least, that's what I thought before I began using a Garmin smartwatch. I started testing the Garmin Forerunner 265 earlier this year, and I went into it with a pretty clear plan: I'd wear the watch for a couple of weeks, write my review, and move back to the Apple Watch. Fast forward to now, and my Garmin Forerunner 265 review has been published, no further testing is required, and nothing is stopping me from returning to my Apple Watch. But here's the thing — I don't want to. Garmin's watch is so good that I have no desire to put the Apple Watch back on my wrist, and there are a few big reasons why.
The surprising importance of buttons

Read more
No, you can’t use an Apple gift card on Apple Pay
Photo of Apple gift cards.

A viral TikTok has made the internet rounds, showing a person who thought that they could transfer Apple gift card funds to Apple Pay. After buying a $300 Apple gift card, however, they quickly learned that that's simply not possible. While their choice might seem misguided in hindsight, there are plenty of people who have been left confused about the differences between Apple gift cards and Apple Pay.

While having a $300 Apple gift card certainly has its uses — such as buying 10 years of Apple Music, as the original poster jokingly pointed out — it's certainly not the same as having that same money to spend freely with Apple Pay. To avoid making the same mistake as this TikTok user, make sure that you understand the distinctions between the two Apple services, as it might just save you $300 (or more).
You cannot add Apple gift cards to Apple Pay

Read more
5 things that could make watchOS 10 the perfect Apple Watch update
Apple Watch Series 8 showing its App Library.

With Apple’s 2023 Worldwide Developer Conference just weeks away, all signs point to it possibly being one of the biggest WWDCs yet. Though the main focus may be on Apple’s mixed reality headset, we’re still going to see software updates with iOS 17, iPadOS 17, watchOS 10, and macOS 14.

Over the weekend, Mark Gurman at Bloomberg stated that watchOS 10 may be a “fairly extensive upgrade,” with “notable changes” to the user interface. Although no details were provided, it teases an exciting future for the Apple Watch this year. And it also got me thinking about some changes that I would love to see in watchOS 10.
More watch faces with dark mode

Read more