A new study involving Fitbit smartwatches is investigating whether wearables can detect, track, and trace COVID-19 and similar infectious diseases.

Fitbit is working with the Scripps Research Translational Institute and Stamford Medicine to support research into the role of wearables in helping contain the spread of viral outbreaks, including donating devices to at-risk communities such as frontline health workers.

Scripps has recently launched an app called DETECT for wearables that aims to track customers’ wearable health data to better detect viral diseases. According to Dr Eric Topol, Director and Founder, previous research has been promising.

“From our previously published work, we know that data collected from consumer wearables can significantly improve the prediction of influenza-like illness.

“We see an enormous opportunity to enhance disease tracking for improved population health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and are pleased to join this new consortium to bring value to the research community.”

James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit, said the company is proud to work with leading names in medical research to help fight the pandemic.

“By bringing together these and other leaders in scientific research, we hope to rapidly advance science and innovation in the fight against COVID-19 by promoting consumer participation in critical research efforts, supporting frontline healthcare workers with donated wearable devices, and sharing learnings quickly and openly across research partners,” he said.

Jennifer Radin, epidemiologist at Scripps, says 24/7 access to real-time data from wearables could help speed up illness detection.

“When people get an infection, their resting heart rate tends to increase and their daily activities will change, as will sleep patterns.

“By leveraging wearable technology that a large share of our population is already using, public health officials may be able to identify influenza-like illness rates faster and more precisely than what is currently possible,” she said.

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