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Smart wearable study to track Long COVID symptoms

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A new, remote study – the Long COVID Wearable Study – is set to investigate whether smart devices that can be worn on the wrist could help people manage Long COVID symptoms as well as reduce symptom severity.

To be carried out by Scripps Research Digital Trials Center in partnership with CareEvolution, the study will look specifically at wrist-worn devices for the management of Long COVID. 

There are currently an estimated 65 million individuals with Long COVID, however, there are no broadly effective treatments so far for this condition. 

Symptoms of Long COVID include respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, musculoskeletal and immunological symptoms, which can vary from person to person. For many, Long COVID has a profound and debilitating impact on daily life.

Researchers have observed significant overlap between Long COVID and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), with many patients struggling with post-exertional malaise. This is a worsening of symptoms after even minor physical, mental or emotional exertion. 

Many also suffer from Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) — an increase in heart rate when a person stands up or walks, causing dizziness and heart palpitations. 

For both conditions, patients have reported that monitoring levels of energy expenditure has helped them improve symptom management. This exercise, known as pacing, allows patients to identify their own quantitative thresholds to help avoid symptom exacerbation.

Tracking and management of Long COVID

Trackers that collect a range of metrics such as heart rate, heart rate variability, physical activity, sleep patterns and stress levels have all been shown to be helpful tools for capturing and monitoring a person’s physiological state throughout the day. 

The Long COVID Wearable Study will allow scientists to analyse sensor data from participants coupled with data related to diagnoses, symptoms and quality of life collected via surveys. The goal of the study is to determine if Long COVID, ME/CFS, and POTS patients who wear wrist-worn activity trackers and who receive educational materials on pacing see a decrease in symptom severity and whether this differs by device brand.

To conduct the trial, study principal investigator Julia Moore Vogel, PhD, and colleagues, have partnered with CareEvolution, the company behind the MyDataHelps digital clinical trial platform. 

Participants can enroll, complete electronic consent, answer surveys and communicate with study co-ordinators via a mobile or web app, making it possible for people to participate remotely, without the need to visit a clinic.

Vogel stated: “New treatments and interventions are urgently needed. We’re excited to launch the Long COVID Wearable Study and apply our team’s expertise in sensor technologies and digital trials to collecting robust data on how activity trackers might provide some patients with much needed relief. 

“While symptom management will not remove the root cause of Long COVID, we hope to validate the patient community’s experience that pacing is currently one of the best ways to reduce symptom severity, and wearable devices can help implement pacing.”

“The ubiquity of smartphones is driving a new era in research where traditional barriers for participation are being removed,” says Vik Kheterpal, MD, principal at CareEvolution. 

“The Long COVID community is a perfect example of a patient group that can benefit from a digital trial experience, which enables participation from home, at your own pace.”   

While participants can use their own activity tracker or smartwatch to take part, the study team will also be distributing 500 Garmin wearables to an eligible subset of participants who do not own a device.

For more details about the Long COVID Wearable Study including how to participate, visit longcovid.scripps.edu.

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