Stanford Study looks at early disease detection using Empatica wristband

emphatic wearable watch

Wearables have come a long way since their days of just recording your step counts and showing time. Research from two new studies revealed this week shows how the latest breed of wearables can help with early disease detection.

Stanford University’s Dr. Tesjaswini announced during an interview this week on Yahoo Finance how her team uses biometrics in consumer-grade wearables to help detect disease.

“We’re using biometrics as measured by these consumer smartwatches… to then detect COVID-19 infection at a pre-symptomatic stage,” Stanford Univ. School of Medicine Research Scientist Dr. Tejaswini Mishra says. “We’re able to detect it on an average of four days in advance.”

This Stanford Medicine study uses the Empatica wearable to monitor individuals’ biometrics in high-risk jobs such as health care workers, grocery workers, teachers, and students on campus. Stanford Empatica Study

The 30-day study aims to understand if an Empatica wristband can track infectious diseases like COVID-19.

You can learn more about this study and sign up by clicking here.

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Stanford Healthcare Innovation Lab

The study team at Stanford has previously shown that wearables data such as heart rate (HR) can be used for early detection of infectious disease, even before the appearance of symptoms.  

The study team will collect data such as heart rate levels, skin temperature, EDA/Skin conductance levels, acceleration, and other processed data derived from smartwatch sensors.

The initial set of Phase-1 results from a similar study from the team was made available in November last year that looked at disease detection using various consumer wearables such as Fitbit, Apple Watch, and Garmin devices.

According to their research, abnormal resting heart rate (RHR) and heart rate-to-steps ratio are associated with these respiratory illnesses.  

Scripps Research on Early Disease Detection

We also saw an interesting presentation from Dr. Jennifer Radin of Scripps Research this week that showed how consumer-grade wearables could be used for early disease detection.

The Scripps Research DETECT study partnered with CareEvolution, Walgreens, CVS Health, and Fitbit to study COVID detection via wearable during the onset of the pandemic.

The team is now looking forward to focusing on the following areas:

  • Predicting the trajectory of illness severity
  • Studying Long-Covid (PASC) and 
  • Physiological response to vaccines

Wearables have definitely come to the limelight during this pandemic.

Wearable makers and esteemed research universities have dedicated many resources to understand the key biomarkers that will facilitate early disease detection and take the time to study the trajectory of illness severity and advance new use cases with each passing day.

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Sudz Niel Kar
I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products, have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA specializing in emerging tech, and owned the popular site AppleToolBox. In my day job, I advise Fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health and fitness-tech evolution and keeping a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships, and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Watch and closely monitor my HRV and other recovery metrics.


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