Smartwatches warn wearers of physical stress, including COVID-19 | news center – Community News
Covid-19

Smartwatches warn wearers of physical stress, including COVID-19 | news center

Using data from smartwatches, a new algorithm reads heart rate as a proxy for physiological or mental stress, potentially warning wearers that they are getting sick before they develop symptoms.

Researchers led by Michael Snyder, PhD, professor and chair of genetics, enrolled thousands of participants in a study that uses the algorithm to look for extended periods when the heart rate is higher than normal — a telltale sign that something is wrong.

But to figure out what’s wrong takes a bit of detective work. During the study, many stressors triggered a warning. Some people received them while traveling; some while running a marathon; others after indulging too much at the bar.

The most exciting finding, Snyder said, was that the algorithm was able to detect 80% of confirmed COVID-19 cases before or when the participants were symptomatic.

“The idea is that people will eventually use this information to decide whether to undergo COVID-19 testing or self-isolate,” Snyder said. “We’re not there yet — we have yet to test this in clinical trials — but that’s the ultimate goal.”

The algorithm cannot distinguish between someone who has hit back a few too many times, someone who is stressed from work and someone who is sick with a virus. While it pinged users who had COVID-19, more refinement is needed before people can trust their smartwatches to warn them of an impending infection with SARS-CoV-2 or other viruses.

A paper describing the study was published online in naturopathy Nov 29. Snyder, the Stanford W. Ascherman, MD, FACS, professor of genetics, and Amir Bahmani, PhD, lecturer and director of Stanford’s Deep Data Research Computing Center, are co-senior authors. Arash Alavi, PhD, research and development leader in Stanford’s Deep Data Research Computing Center; research scientist Meng Wang, PhD; and postdoctoral scientists Gireesh Bogu, PhD, Ekanath Srihari Rangan, PhD, and Andrew Brooks, PhD, share lead authorship. The alert system is built with MyPHD, a scalable, secure health data platform.

Stress detection

During the study, which lasted about eight months in 2020 and 2021, 2,155 participants wore a smartwatch, which tracked mental and physical “stress events” via the heart rate. When notified of a stress event, via an alert linked to an app on their phone, the participants recorded what they were doing. To trigger an alert, their heart rates had to be raised for more than a few hours, so a quick jog around the block or a sudden loud noise didn’t trigger a trigger.

“The great thing about this is that people can put their warnings into context,” Snyder said. “If you’re traveling on an airline and you get a warning, you know air travel is probably the culprit.”

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