Can an Apple Watch help manage ‘Long COVID’?

Digital health is person-centered, remote, and makes use of wearable sensors and technologies to enable a new approach to primary care. Fresh research involving 37,000 people gives us another insight into how this should work.

Sensors, smartwatch and symptoms

Scientists from the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California recently published a studyDigital Engagement and Tracking for Early Control and Treatment (DETECT) — that looked at 37,000 people wearing an Apple Watch, Fitbit, or other wearables. Research last year showed Apple Watch helps more accurately detect the symptoms of COVID-19; now it seems it can also help manage the condition called “Long COVID.”

“Wearable devices provide a way to continuously track an individual’s physiological and behavioral metrics beginning when healthy (ie, before infection), during the course of infection, and recovery back to baseline,” the authors wrote. They found wearables could identify some of the warning signs of the condition, including a tendency for heart rates to remain much higher than normal post-COVID.

Scientists were also able to see that people suffering from Long COVID developed measurable sleep problems and saw a long-term decline in activity levels. “The researchers identified a small subset of people with Covid whose heart rates remained more than five beats per minute above normal one to two months after infection,” reported the New York Times.

“Nearly 14% of those with the disease fell into this category, and their heart rates did not return to normal for more than 133 days, on average.”

Implications in healthcare

The research isn’t definitive and doesn’t mean sufferers of chronic conditions such as Long COVID can expect to be given wearable devices to monitor their conditions. But it seems reasonably credible to believe the sensors on these things can play a part in long-term patient care for any condition.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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