As China appears to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, doctors and health officials are gradually shifting their focus from emergency wards to patients who have been discharged from hospitals. To keep track of their health, a team of medical experts is seeking the help of Huami, the Xiaomi-backed maker of Amazfit smartwatches.
As with most smartwatches and fitness bands, Huami’s devices are designed to monitor heart rate, track sleep and record your workout data. Some are equipped with GPS, which means they also know where a user has been and how far they’ve walked. These all contribute to useful data for following a patient’s recovery.
Since 2017, Huami has been collaborating with a team at the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Health, according to professor Zheng Jinping. The institute, led by China’s leading respiratory disease expert Zhong Nanshan, has been using wearable devices to better understand a patient’s exercise capacity and gather data. Now the team plans to expand the project to include recovered Covid-19 patients.
As countries around the world scramble to contain the deadly contagion, researchers are trying to gather more clues from people who have survived the disease. Among the burning questions are whether these patients are at risk of falling ill again and whether they might suffer from long-term health damage.
This is especially crucial information in China, where there are now more recovered cases than ailing patients. A recent study in Hong Kong showed that some survivors felt short of breath during brisk walks. And up to 10% of recovered patients in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, have tested positive again.
The Guangzhou program aims to use wearable devices to follow up on the recovery of patients who wish to participate. Using a database run by the National Clinical Research Center for Respiratory Disease, researchers will collect data on volunteers related to exercise levels, sleep, heart rate, and other health indicators for managing rehabilitation.
Huami said that researchers hope to eventually use fitness trackers to spot emerging outbreaks and create an early warning system. If successful, this could help protect the country and the world from the next deadly disease, which scientists say will inevitably come.
China isn’t the only country turning to wearables to track disease trends. Health authorities in Germany are already using health monitoring app Corona-Datenspende to try to monitor the spread of infections and the effectiveness of containment measures. The app is compatible with Apple, Fitbit, and Garmin watches and fitness bands.
This article first appeared in Abacus News.