Researchers from Stanford have found that wearable biosensors in devices like smart watches can detect when you are becoming sick. In their study published on January 12, 2017 in PLOS Biology, they found that such devices can detect illneses from the simple cough and colds to more complex illnesses like diabetes and Lyme diseases.
Wearable gadgets that use biosensors have been known to measure steps and physiological mechanisms but they have not been found to help diagnose illneses. This finding could mean that diagnosing a disease would be easier with the help of devices.
The research team studied 60 participants for two years. The researchers took note of their baseline measurements like skin temperature and heart rate. The team determined that the deviations from the normal baseline coincide with times the participants became sick. Apparently, their pulse rate and skin temperature are more likely to increase when they become sick.
Michael Snyder, a Professor and Chair of Genetics at Stanford and senior author of the study, said that when he went to vacation, he noticed that his heart rate increased and his oxygen levels decreased, as shown by the smart watch he used. When he went to the doctor, he found out that he has Lyme diseases, confirming that the data of his smart watch can detect the earliest signs of the disease.
The researchers say that the findings would open the way to the development of smart phones that can reliably monitor a user’s health and signs of illness. It could also help those who are unaware of their risk of developing diabetes.
The researchers also said that they predict that the use of such technology can be problematic to people who wish to protect their privacy. These people may be unwilling to share their biosensors’ data to their doctors. “Physicians and third-party payers will demand robust research to help guide how this comprehensive longitudinal personal data should be used in clinical care,” Snyder asserted. “However, in the long-term I am very optimistic that personal biosensors will help us maintain healthier lives.”