The way the healthcare industry has pivoted to remote and virtual treatment to manage the risk of COVID-19 has been quite remarkable.
Telehealth is perhaps the most prominent healthcare response to COVID-19. It has been an excellent solution to the challenge of practicing medicine in a global pandemic. Furthermore, it is one that has kept both care providers and patients safe from potential exposure to the coronavirus.
Another recent development in the fight against the virus is the emergence of wide-scale testing operations, such as CVS Health’s Rapid COVID-19 Drive-Through Testing sites.
The availability of such testing is a huge step in the right direction. Unfortunately, these tests aren’t perfect yet.
Due to their inconclusive nature, experts advise patients to closely monitor symptoms following a rapid test and proceed with caution.
So, looking at the big picture, we currently have two foundational tools to navigate the dangers of the coronavirus: telehealth and widely available, free testing.
However, telehealth cannot replace every tangible advantage that going to the doctor’s office used to hold. Similarly, a negative COVID-19 drive-through test does not rule out the possibility of the presence of the virus in your system.
As a result, patients are encouraged to combine these strategies with supplemental treatment methods.
Especially useful during this time are wearable devices and remote patient monitoring technology. Some tech has been found to provide patients with valuable biometric data that can indicate a possible case of COVID-19.
This blog post will explore three wearable technology devices that are being used to remotely monitor coronavirus symptoms, and how patients can merge these tools with their overall care.
1) Pulse Oximeters Detect Low Blood Oxygen Levels
A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the saturation of oxygen carried in the body’s red blood cells.
Pulse oximeters are a standard medical tool used to measure blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and respiratory function in patients.
Coronavirus patients’ blood oxygenation levels have been found to drop to alarmingly low levels before they experience a shortness of breath.
COVID-19 has been considered a respiratory disease from the beginning. Shortness of breath due to low oxygen levels were one of the first identified symptoms.
More recently, there is growing awareness and research regarding how hypoxia (low blood oxygen) manifests in patients.
Medical professionals are discovering that COVID-19 decreases a patients’ blood oxygen levels gradually. So gradually, in fact, that their bodies adapt to it for quite a while, until their blood oxygen levels are at about half the normal level and shortness of breath presents.
Enter the pulse oximeter. These handy devices allow you to quickly and easily measure your blood oxygenation consistently, and over time.
If you have symptoms found in COVID-19 cases, pulse oximeters are currently one of the best ways to acquire telling biometric context for your condition.
Say you are experiencing a fever and a sore throat, for example. If you begin using your pulse oximeter a few times a day at the onset of your symptoms, you will be able to track any dip in blood oxygenation.
If your blood oxygen readings remain in the high 90s (a normal level is 95% – 100%) over the coming days/weeks, you may not have to worry about the coronavirus.
That is not to say that this is a foolproof strategy. If your blood oxygen level doesn’t waiver, though, that is a great sign and can offer some peace of mind during a time where that can be hard to find.
Let us stress again that this is a supplemental strategy for monitoring your condition if you have reason to believe you may have COVID-19.
Dr. Richard Levitan, who was interviewed by CBS, perhaps said it best: “…in the midst of a respiratory pandemic…the public should think of an oximeter the way they do a thermometer.”
A pulse oximeter is a tool that can be used to monitor a specific indicator of COVID-19. The device can give you and your doctors key biometric data to make decisions regarding your condition in a time of such uncertainty.
2) WHOOP Data Can Indicate Early Signs of COVID-19
WHOOP, a human performance company, recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis with unprecedented repercussions.
Besides the hardships and tragedies that have come with coronavirus, living through a pandemic is something that most, if not all of us were unprepared for. Whether that lack of preparation manifests in physiological or mental stress or both, there is not much of a blueprint to navigate it.
We are all learning as we go.
WHOOP has identified biometric markers that could indicate a case of COVID-19. These metrics include increased heart rate and a decrease in heart rate variability.
WHOOP’s tech can be used to establish the wearer’s baseline biometrics – think of it as a snapshot of your healthy state.
These normal metrics can then be compared to your current condition, and any differences can be analyzed for our current health emergency.
For example, an increased heart rate and a high respiratory rate can reveal that the body is working harder than usual. This often means it has sprung into action against an infection.
WHOOP users can use this technology and metrics as another supplemental measure to look out for possible indicators of COVID-19.
WHOOP’s device can also capture your body’s stress response in its measurements. People all over the world are experiencing stress. The mental and emotional strain of dealing with the prospect of a deadly virus and the isolating nature of social distancing is great.
Wearable technology devices can alert us to underlying stress we may not have become aware of yet.
Ever find yourself feeling down for no reason?
Something like WHOOP can be physiological proof that you need to take a deep breath and give yourself a break. Living through a pandemic is difficult, traumatic, and will most likely have lasting impacts on our behavior and psyches.
Devices like WHOOP can be the hint and catalyst you need to give yourself some TLC.
3) OURA Ring Monitors Users for COVID-19 Symptoms
OURA, a wearable ring technology, monitors users’ pulse, movement and temperature to provide a complete picture of their health.
The company has recently partnered with the University of California, San Francisco (USCSF) to explore if the data provided by their OURA ring can help predict viral symptoms.
From this research, the study hopes to develop an algorithm to help identify COVID-19 patterns at three different stages: onset of the virus, progression, and recovery.
The study, called TemPredict, is researching two groups:
- Front-line healthcare workers
- Adult volunteers from the general public that own an OURA ring.
The project gives OURA and USCSF two different groups in two different environments to identify any physiological patterns of the coronavirus to better detect and treat it in the future.
In addition to the valuable empirical data TemPredict is compiling, the study has short-term benefits as well.
A front-line healthcare worker wearing an OURA ring will be able to regularly refer to their biometrics, and any changes in them.
The ability to track their body temperature, respiratory rate, and heart rate in real-time could be the difference in that person getting tested or self-quarantining, days or weeks earlier than they may have if they waited for symptoms to present.
In these cases, the healthcare professional can address their condition sooner, which also minimizes the chance of exposing patients or coworkers to COVID-19.
As for the adult volunteers, an OURA ring could be a necessary added reminder to uphold precautionary measures during this time.
Using a wearable device has a way of putting users in tune with their bodies, helping them actively listening to it. Plus, they can also detect concerning changes in their biometrics earlier than they would have physically felt them.
Marrying Remote Monitoring and COVID-19 Treatment
All three of the devices we discussed exhibit some pretty advanced technology that provide an especially modern way to meet the challenge of COVID-19.
Wearable technology and remote monitoring devices give the public a chance to take their care into their own hands.
Access to all healthcare organizations is at least somewhat restricted during this time. These devices are one of the best ways that people can proceed with caution, independence, and actionable data.
For maximum care coordination, you should be able to share the data from wearable or remote monitoring technology with your doctors. This is possible through patient engagement platforms.
It is one thing to schedule a telehealth appointment with your doctor and discuss your symptoms and next steps.
However, imagine how much more comprehensive your care will be if you can pair your verbal report with biometric data. The combination of those two aspects essentially bridge the physical gap between you and your care providers.
Many of the biometrics that would be gathered at a physical visit can now be measured by patients remotely and communicated to the doctor digitally through patient portal software.
We at Sigmund have been wondering what it would take for patients to embrace the wide variety of wearable technology devices available to them. We have seen how these devices can empower people to take ownership of their health, as well as enhance their overall treatment.
We wish it were under very different circumstances, but the coronavirus pandemic is quite the push for widespread adoption of such technology and practices.
We recommend that you ask your doctor what their patient portal capabilities are.
Most modern electronic health record (EHR) software allows care providers to engage their patients adequately.
Ideally, they can offer you a digital hub to report, record and organize your symptoms, allowing you to address your condition with hard data.
And if you are a care provider that is currently unable to engage your patients via a portal, or through any other digital means, we’d be happy to discuss possible solutions.
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