Could your FitBit diagnose a disease?


If we had a doctor with us at all times, would we be healthier? There’s a chance we could find out in the near future thanks to wearable technologies like Apple watches and FitBits.

A new study by Stanford University School of Medicine used wearables that track fitness and sleep to gather almost 2 billion measurements including heart rate, sleep, and skin temperature. By using this information, researchers were able to identify irregular readings in vital signs that could signal a change in health.

That’s how study author Michael Snyder, professor and chair of genetics at Stanford, learned that he was getting sick. He was wearing seven biosensors when he noticed abnormalities in his heart rate and blood oxygen levels. He next came down with a fever and was eventually diagnosed with Lyme disease.

He told Time Magazine, “I see a world where everyone is wearing these and your smartphone is like your car dashboard: lights go off when things are not quite right, like elevated heart rate or skin temperature.”

By using this information, researchers were able to identify irregular readings in vital signs that could signal a change in health. If wearables can determine baseline markers for our health, then algorithms can be created to diagnose us. In time, these warning signs could uplink us directly to a doctor we currently have to wait days to see. They would also get several month’s worth of vitals rather than a simple reading in the office.

The Stanford School of Medicine recently announced the launch of the Center for Digital Health (CDH) to support collaborations between Stanford faculty and Silicon Valley technology companies with an aim to develop and test new digital health tools. The CDH is inviting applications for its inaugural seed grant program focused on innovative uses of the Apple Watch in healthcare, and will be awarding up to 1,000 Apple Watches and $10,000 in funding. 


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