This is the astonishing conclusion of two American studies, from Stanford University and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Certain connected watches, including the Apple Watch from Apple, certain Garmin GPS models – used by runners – or even Fitbit activity trackers could detect the presence of Covid in a patient up to 7 to 9 days before the onset of the first symptoms and even before the virus is detectable by a test.
Thanks to the increasingly sophisticated sensors on board these objects, in particular a cardiac sensor, which detects crippled variations in the heartbeat, and it is these very small variations that could be a harbinger of the presence of the Covid.
One of the studies was carried out on several hundred medical personnel equipped with Apple Watch for 5 months. The other on a cohort of 5,300 people. And it shows that 8 in 10 people with Covid had characteristic changes in their resting heart rate up to 9 days before symptoms appeared.
Results which need to be confirmed, two studies, it is not a scientific consensus, but they are interesting avenues of research. If we use these tools intelligently, they could also be part of the arsenal to fight the epidemic. Particularly useful for detecting patients very early on, before they can infect many people. And then also to detect asymptomatic patients.
Moreover, we can use these watches both to detect the disease but also to monitor patients at risk.
Upstream and downstream. The one I wear on my wrist, for example, the Scanwatch by the French company Withings, is covered with electronic sensors for medical purposes. An electrocardiogram, but also a sensor of the level of oxygen saturation in the blood. This makes it possible to detect sleep apnea, but also to monitor the state of health and respiratory distress of patients with Covid directly from their homes.
Data that can be traced back to a doctor. This watch was made available to certain hospitals during the first wave (Bichat in Paris, etc.), in order to monitor patients at risk in real time and remotely.
The sports world in particular is very interested in these technologies, which make it possible to monitor the health of players and to quarantine them if necessary. The NBA, the American basketball championship, has adopted a connected ring for its players, called Oura. They ordered 2,000.
It is encircled with electronics, it is again supposed to analyze every second the temperature, heart rate, breathing … According to the first results of a study by the University of San Francisco which involves several thousand health professionals. health, it would detect the presence of Covid up to 3 days before the onset of the first symptoms. What to quarantine the people concerned before any risk of contamination. Other sports championships could be inspired by it.
And it doesn’t stop at Covid-19. These connected accessories are increasingly useful for tracking a whole host of diseases.
For a long time, smartwatches, Apple Watch and others were more or less improved pedometers: steps, calories, speed when running. But they are turning into medical devices. And the Covid gives them an extraordinary showcase to show their usefulness.
There are dozens of cases where a simple alert, a “beep” from the watch, saved the life of its wearer by telling him that he had a heart problem and that it was high time to go to the emergency room.
Obviously, and it will never replace a human doctor, but it can be a formidable “whistleblower”. While waiting for models equipped with microneedles which will be able to test the level of sugar in the blood of a diabetic patient for example.