Last spring, when the nation’s Covid 19 cases were rising and tests were in short supply. Some scientists wondered whether a new approach to disease surveillance might be on Americans’ wrists. One in five Americans uses a Fitbit, Apple Watch or another wearable fitness tracker.Several studies have suggested that the devices which can collect data on heart rates, body temperature, physical activity and more could help detect early signs of Covid 19 symptoms. Now research suggests that these wearables can also help track patients’ recovery from the disease, providing insight into its long-term effects.
In a paper published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Network Open, researchers studying Fitbit data reported that people who tested positive for Covid 19 displayed behavioural and physiological changes, including an elevated heart rate, that could last for weeks or months. These symptoms lasted longer in people with Covid 19 than in those with other respiratory illnesses.
The results are from the Digital Engagement and Tracking for Early Control and Treatment trial run by scientists at the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California. From March 25, 2020, to Jan. 24, 2021, more than 37,000 people enrolled in the trial. Participants downloaded the MyDataHelps research app and agreed to share data from their Fitbit, Apple Watch or other wearable devices. They also used the app to report illness symptoms and the results of any Covid 19 tests.