From the perspectives of medical professionals and scientific researchers alike, there is much that is still unknown about the coronavirus (COVID-19). In order to gain more knowledge, the scientific and medical communities are turning to technology to help them obtain data in mass amounts so that they can better diagnose, treat, and contain the virus.
One piece of health technology that could prove vital to early detection of the virus is the Oura ring. By tracking body temperatures, heart rates, sleep cycles, and activity, the Oura ring has been praised for its usefulness as a fitness tracker, but in a study being conducted with the University of California, San Francisco, the Oura ring may also be used to help detect signs of fever, which is one of the prominent symptoms of a COVID-19 infection. The study involves 2,000 frontline healthcare workers who are at a high risk of contracting the virus due to frequent exposure and limited protective supplies. The ring could also alert wearers that something is amiss and prompt them to get tested before more obvious symptoms like coughing or shortness of breath set in, as was the case with one user in Finland. Further data is needed to verify the accuracy of the Oura ring’s predictive and diagnostic potential.
While the Oura ring is being adapted to aid in the fight against COVID-19, the C-19 COVID Symptom Tracker was designed and released by the health technology company Zoe Global Unlimited for the sole purpose of documenting individual’s symptoms of the virus. It was launched in the U.K. and is available in the U.S. on the Apple App Store as well as the Google Play Store. By using this app, individuals can document their symptoms and aid in the collection of data pertaining to regional cases of the virus. In doing so, individuals allow medical professionals and researchers to more accurately determine how best to allocate resources to specific areas in need.
Through this app, users document the kind and duration of their symptoms. More than 1.5 million individuals have downloaded and utilized this app in the U.K., and app developers refer to these users as “citizen scientists” as their contributions are used to learn more about COVID-19 and aid in research, education, and treatment development. Researchers hope to use this data to help track where the virus is spreading and also to help differentiate between cases of COVID-19 and other medical conditions such as influenza or the common cold.
Because there are still many unknowns and a considerable amount of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, research and data at this time are crucial. Users should be aware that this app is not for the purpose of diagnostics or alerting the public in regards to where cases are appearing. Instead, the app functions solely to provide valuable information to a large team of scientists, researchers, and medical professionals to help them identify the best ways to flatten the curve, allocate resources, and limit the spread.
As the fight against the virus intensifies, the power of digital technologies in the shape of consumer devices and applications may prove a great ally to more traditional interventions and methods to accelerate the path to containment, treatment, and eventually, a vaccine or a cure.