A study says Apple Watch can predict COVID-19 diagnosis a week early

Apple Watch Series 5
Apple Watch Series 5 (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • A study claims that Apple Watch can predict a COVID-19 diagnosis a week before testing.

A new study by researchers at Mount Sinai has been published in the peer-reviewed "Journal of Medical Internet Research" and claims to show that Apple Watch can predict a positive COVID-19 diagnosis up to a week before a test.

According to a TechCrunch report, a special Apple Watch and iPhone app were used by participants in the study.

During the course of the study, the research team enlisted "several hundred healthcare workers" to participate, and collected data over several months, between April and September. The primary biometric signal that the study's authors were watching was heart rate variability (HRV), which is a key indicator of strain on a person's nervous system. This information was combined with information around reported symptoms associated with COVID-19, including fever, aches, dry cough, gastrointestinal issues, and loss of taste and smell, among others.

The potential here is pretty big, with people able to detect whether they have COVID-19 remotely, without anyone else needing to be involved. Being able to diagnose COVID-19 earlier would help improve isolation techniques and potentially prevent further spread of the virus.

As for the study itself, it continues to look into what else it can learn about the pandemic using Apple Watches and other wearables.

The study is ongoing and will expand to examine what else wearables like the Apple Watch and their onboard sensors can tell us about other impacts of COVID-19 on the health of care workers, including what factors like sleep and physical activity can have in association with the disease.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.