Growing Role of Smartwatches to Monitor Health During Covid-19

Healthcare Wearables


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need to take care of our health on priority and harness & leverage our digital infrastructure for remote patient monitoring. As Vaccines for this virus are slow to emerge, so we need for more robust disease detection and monitoring of our health, which could be aided by wearable sensors. According to the latest research, 30 million wearable devices capable of tracking, monitoring and fighting the progression of Covid-19 are expected to ship to healthcare organizations and patients this year. The research firm expects this number to grow to 104 million within the next five years based on infectious diseases like Covid-19 and the increasing need to monitor a patient’s medical status in this unprecedented situation. While the utility of this technology has been used to correlate physiological metrics to our daily living and our day to day activities, the translation of such technology toward predicting the incidence of COVID-19 remains a necessity.

Growth of Healthcare Wearables

Over the last few months, we have seen a growing number of startups with sports tech, wellbeing and fitness backgrounds, pivoting and tweaking their products to help fight the progression of Covid-19. Now healthcare wearables are becoming a key enabler to help enhance bedside care and clinical mobility experience especially smartwatches. Smartwatches worn by patients in their hospital room, in transit or at home, can now automatically alert healthcare staff members in real time about the health condition of the user. Anybody can leverage clinical mobility solutions, such as smartwatches with collaboration and messaging solutions, to communicate with each other and take the proper measures. This has become increasingly important in the context of Covid-19 as every minute counts to save a patient’s life.

Role of Smartwatches to detect Covid-19 symptoms

Wearable technology can play a key role in moving forward by helping to monitor critical information such as the users heart rate (HR) and core body temperature. The healthcare industry is also assessing a wide variety of smartwatches form factors to address Covid-19. Smart rings, patches, stamps, and watches are all capable of measuring a user’s HR, core body temperature, breathing and other vitals everywhere even at home or at the workplace. These devices can even monitor coughing which is a key early indicator of Covid-19. COVID-19, along with other viral illnesses, is associated with several physiological changes that can be monitored using wearable sensors. Many metrics derived from heart rhythm such as heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV), resting heart rate (RHR), and respiration rate (RR) could serve as potential markers of COVID-19 infection and are already measured by wearable devices. Many smartwatches can report and monitor more complex metrics such as stress, recovery, activity, and sleep, which are typically calculated using a combination of cardiac and accelerometer-derived metrics. Due to multiple measurements, these metrics should exhibit an aggregate higher signal to noise ratio (SNR) than individual raw signals alone and, therefore, have higher predictive value. Sudden rise in body temperature and arterial oxygen saturation (SpO2) are also of clinical value due to the high prevalence of fever and respiratory symptoms in COVID-19, these devices can monitor all other key symptoms related to Covid-19; however. Many currently available smartwatches provide users with calculations of advanced metrics such as stress or strain, sleep, activity, and recovery. These metrics typically rely on a combination of measurements and are calculated on a daily basis.

Data collected from these smartwatches can improve our pandemic response by detecting early signs of Covid-19 cases. By monitoring variations in heart rate or body temperature, watches are able to help and alert people to the possibility of infection. As a result, the data these devices collect could provide people with information on which to base decisions to isolate or to seek medical advice or treatment. Data from smartwatches can also enhance remote patient monitoring, which takes pressure off health-care systems and prevents unnecessary exposure of medical professionals to the virus, thus reducing transmission. Aggregate data taken from watches can also contribute to research by detecting general patterns and trends within a population, which can contribute to improved public-health  responses. Today Cumulative data is used to identify geographical Covid-19 hotspots.

Future of these watches

In the future, we can expect to see more innovations developed as a result of the pandemic to help keep people informed of the status of their own health while aiming to limit surges at medical establishments, improving the efficiency of clinical mobility solutions and bedside care. Smartwatches can provide a key early-warning system about the other similar virus like Covid-19 infection, but their use can potentially go further in infection surveillance. The potential that smartwatches have for helping detect early signs of Covid-19 and other infectious diseases, as well as monitoring patients, will make this technology and healthcare smartwatches a popular choice for healthcare organizations and even for the normal people for the foreseeable future.

About the author:

Amit Sinsinwal

The author is the Director of OSS Infocom, a renowned distribution company and nationwide Authorized Distributor for Garmin watches. He can be reached at [email protected]