Early data shows Fitbit devices can detect Covid-19 signs

20 August 2020 (Last Updated August 20th, 2020 11:43)

Early data from a clinical study being performed by Fitbit has shown that the company's devices were able to detect physiological signs of Covid-19.

Early data shows Fitbit devices can detect Covid-19 signs
Fitbit devices were able to identify the signs of Covid-19. Credit: Andri Koolme.

Early data from a clinical study being performed by Fitbit has shown that the company’s devices were able to detect physiological signs of Covid-19.

According to the findings, Fitbit devices were able to identify the signs simultaneously with participants’ reporting the onset of symptoms and even earlier in certain cases.

The company added that the devices identified almost 50% of cases one day before participants, reporting 70% specificity. The earlier detection is expected to help to avoid transmission of the virus before people realising they have symptoms.

Fitbit launched the study in May to develop an algorithm that can identify the disease before symptoms begin. More than 100,000 Fitbit users across the US and Canada participated and over 1,000 positive cases were reported.

Following the early findings, the company is now working to balance the technology’s sensitivity and specificity. It plans to collaborate with clinical and public health communities to test various models of technology.

In a statement, Fitbit said: “Early detection is critical, and we hope to bring this type of information to consumers as soon as possible.

“As a next step, we will continue to work with our research partners like Scripps Research Translational Institute and Stanford Healthcare Innovation Lab to further validate the technology and intend to engage with the appropriate regulators globally to determine the best path to bring this to consumers.”

The Fitbit Covid-19 study also showed that breathing rate, resting heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV) could indicate the onset of illness.

The research found that HRV often decreases in people with symptoms of illness while resting heart rate and breathing rate are usually elevated.

The company is also capturing some data on common symptoms, severity, duration of illness and the symptoms most likely associated with hospitalisation.

In June, Fitbit received emergency use authorisation (EUA) from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a low-cost emergency ventilator Fitbit Flow.