Stanford Study Aims To Determine If Apple Watch Can Detect Coronavirus

Close up photo of Apple Watch on display.
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As the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout countries across the world, experts are searching for answers wherever they can find them. According to a report from 9to5Mac, Stanford University is conducting a study to determine whether Apple’s wearable device, the Apple Watch, could possibly tell if its wearer has contracted the virus.

The Apple Watch can monitor and record health data, including respiratory and heart rates, and since the virus affects the lungs, it’s not hard to understand the thought process behind the idea that the device could be helpful. The university is currently seeking participants for the study, which is being called the Wearables Data Study, but there are a few conditions.

“We are trying to find out if information from wearable devices, like Fitbit and Apple Watch, can be used to track infectious diseases like COVID-19. We hope to be able to predict the onset even before any symptoms start,” the Stanford Medicine website outlined.

The study will focus on people who own a wearable device and have had a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 or have been exposed to somebody who has known or suspected COVID-19 or are at higher risk of exposure, like essential workers. In order to be a part of the study, participants will have to agree to wear their device at all times, download the required app, and fill out a daily symptom survey.

The study may run for up to 24 months, but the first phase of the study will likely be completed within a few weeks.

The study has already been attracting a lot of attention, according to Michael Snyder, the director of genomics and personalized medicine at Stanford.

“We’re getting a tonne of people enrolling who have a smartwatch and have been ill,” he told Gizmodo. “There’s lots of smartwatch wearers out there. There are 30 million active users from Fitbit, millions from Apple Watch. We’re talking tens of millions of people, all with these smartwatches that could be health protectors for infectious diseases like COVID-19.”

But despite the overwhelming interest in the study and the hard work of the researchers involved, there are still a number of unanswered questions and unknown factors. So, while wearables might not be the answer right now, Thomas Tsai, an assistant professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said he strongly believes more testing would be the best thing to do moving forward.