“This was an interesting study, and I think it’s important,” said Dr. Robert Hirten, a gastroenterologist and wearables expert at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai who was not involved in the new work. “Wearable devices offer an ability for us to be able to monitor people unobtrusively over long periods of time to see in an objective way — how really has the virus affected them?”
The results are from the Digital Engagement and Tracking for Early Control and Treatment (DETECT) trial run by scientists at the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, Calif. From March 25, 2020 to Jan. 24, 2021, more than 37,000 people enrolled in the trial.
Participants downloaded the MyDataHelps research app and agreed to share data from their Fitbit, Apple Watch or other wearable device. They also used the app to report illness symptoms and the results of any Covid-19 tests.
In October, the same researchers reported in Nature Medicine that when they combined wearable data with self-reported symptoms, they could detect Covid-19 cases more accurately than when they analyzed symptoms alone.
But the data, the researchers realized, could also help them track what happened to people after the worst of the illness had passed. People recovering from Covid have reported a wide range of lasting health effects, including fatigue, “brain fog,” shortness of breath, headache, depression, heart palpitations and chest pain. (These lingering effects are often known as long Covid.)