Scripps, Stanford working with Fitbit to assess wearables' COVID-19 tracking abilities

"We see an enormous opportunity to enhance disease tracking for improved population health during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Scripps Research Translational Institute's Dr. Eric Topol.
By Mike Miliard
03:48 PM

Scripps Health and Stanford Medicine have joined with Fitbit for a new study to gauge how well wearable devices can help track, trace and isolate COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

WHY IT MATTERS

The Scripps Research Translational Institute recently launched an app-based research program called DETECT that can analyze wearable health data – such as activity levels, heart rate and sleep – to more quickly detect viral illnesses caused by coronavirus, influenza or other infectious diseases.

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The Stanford Healthcare Innovation lab, meanwhile, recently launched its own COVID-19 wearables study, which is exploring how data collected from wearables – like heart rate, skin temperature and blood oxygen saturation – can be used to predict the onset of an infectious disease before symptoms start.

With Fitbit, Scripps and Stanford – other institutions are welcome to join in the consortium, they say – plan to assess how well such device-driven approaches could be scaled up for a public health response to outbreaks like COVID-19.

Earlier this year, Scripps published evidence that wearables can help predict the onset flu and similar diseases before symptoms start. The goal of the new consortium is to build on that research, with a special focus on public health emergencies like this one.

Researchers will run many studies independently, with findings aggregated and shared across the consortium. Fitbit will help boost consumer awareness and help its customers participate in the effort; it will also donate wearable devices to Scripps, Stanford and others. Fitbit users can learn how to participate in the studies through the company's COVID-19 Resource Hub.

THE LARGER TREND

It's looking like consumer devices will have a big role to play in any large-scale track-and-trace effort to stem the tide of COVID-19.

This past week, Apple and Google announced plans to develop API-enabled interoperability between iOS and Android products – and eventually build Bluetooth-based contact-tracing functionality into their respective operating systems – to give public health officials better visibility into how coronavirus might be spreading.

Fitbit, meanwhile, also rolled out a new feature this week that can connect users to telemedicine services through its partnership with vendor PlushCare.

ON THE RECORD

"From our previously published work, we know that data collected from consumer wearables can significantly improve the prediction of influenza-like illness," said Dr. Eric Topol, director and founder of SRTI, in a statement. "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."

"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," added James Park, cofounder and CEO of Fitbit.

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Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

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