In previous research, Dunn had shown that biometric data collected from wearable devices could indicate if a person was more likely to develop health issues like diabetes or cardiovascular disease, or show they had an infection. This work would be expanded in CovIdentify, where students in Dunn’s Big Ideas Lab, including PhD students Brennae Bent, Peter Cho, Karnika Singh, Will Wang, will collect biometric data about a participant, including their sleep schedules, oxygen levels, activity levels and heart rate.
“The first stage of the study was launched in the first week of April with covidentify.org, where participants could input their relevant demographics and medical information and agree to complete a daily survey,” says Dunn. “This is a short daily survey that would ask about social distancing and common symptoms, like nasal congestion, runny nose, cough, sore throat, headache, fever, chills and COVID-specific symptoms, like shortness of breath, nausea and loss of sense of taste and smell.”
By pairing these surveys with changes in the biometric data from the watches, the researchers could explore which symptoms would indicate common issues like allergies and a cold, and which symptoms and biometric changes were likely to indicate a COVID-19 infection.
“The biometric data helps us create a baseline to see what a person’s health usually looks like, and the ongoing data and surveys help us create a trajectory of the illness,” says Ryan Shaw, PhD, RN an associate professor of nursing and director of the Duke Mobile App Gateway . “We’ll be able to see how changes in the digital health data relate to the emergence of specific symptoms. Once this data is collected we can develop, test and refine our predictive algorithms to detect respiratory infections from the COVID-19 virus.”
In second phase of the study, which began in early June 2020, the team launched an iOS application, which can pull data from any device that syncs with the Apple HealthKit application. Beyond simplifying the sign-up and survey process, the app also expands the devices that the team can work with.