Wearable Technologies for Detecting Pre-Symptomatic Illness and Infections

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In this episode of Impetus Digital‘s Fireside Chat, I sat down with Dr. Tejaswini Mishra, Research Scientist at Stanford University School of Medicine, for a deep dive into her research on using wearable technologies for detecting COVID-19 and other diseases before patients become symptomatic. Among other things, we also discussed precision medicine, the pros and cons of using a smartwatch for the detection of COVID-19, and the barriers to mass-scale real-time surveillance of infectious diseases using this technology. 

Here is a sneak peek of our conversation:

Q: How ready is the healthcare ecosystem for this type and this level of precision medicine [omics, N=1 trials]?

A: I think, in some ways, we are already doing that. Genome sequencing has become, not an integral part of healthcare every day, but it is being routinely used in healthcare. People use it for genetic counseling when they are about to have children, people are getting genetic testing for cancer risk, and things like that. So, in some ways, we are already doing these things as a routine part of healthcare.

What we are not doing is really considering each and every person as their own reference. That is where we need to go and that’s where we’re headed. What our lab is doing is trying to create these proof of concept studies and to show people that yes, this can be done and, yes, there is value in doing it. Every person needs to be their own control. We need a ton of longitudinal data and repeated sampling of the same person over time to establish their healthy baseline. Then, we need to measure them really frequently when they get sick or when something like a diet or lifestyle change happens.

Just to figure out how different does this person looks from that healthy baseline, how much variation is there in the healthy baseline, and then how much do they change when they get sick. These things are things we’re just establishing right now. Hopefully, at some point in the next few years, we can put that into standard healthcare practice where we will be taking these metrics on people and figuring out what makes them healthy.

Just to give an example: body temperature. We measure temperature when you go to the physician’s office but body temperature varies by people. Your baseline median body temperature might be actually less than 98.4° and, for some people, it might be a little more. When you mention 98 point something in the doctor’s office, you might actually have a fever, but the doctor doesn’t realize that. Same for someone who might get diagnosed as having a fever but they don’t actually have it. That is the reason why we want to head this way and trying to figure out what your baseline looks like…

For more of our discussion, you can watch the whole Fireside Chat with Dr. Tejaswini Mishra, or listen to the podcast version, below.

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