Oura and West Virginia University Should Retract Unsubstantiated Claims Related to Oura Ring and COVID-19

The skeptical cardiologist has previously reviewed the Oura ring as a sleep tracker. I found it fairly useless as a sleep or “readiness” tracker although I really enjoyed its design, wearability and user interface.

Many of the health claims Oura makes for its ring are unsubstantiated but recently they engaged in incredibly misleading and inaccurate marketing related to alleged capabilities of its ring to detect COVID-19 prior to symptoms.

I received an email from Oura recently which strongly implied that its ring could diagnose COVID-19 in patients prior to symptom development

Screen Shot 2020-07-10 at 7.44.24 AM

The email links to an article on the Ouraring.com website which links to a  a press release  from the West Virginia Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI):

The first paragraph implies that a major advance in COVID-19 diagnosis has been accomplished:

MORGANTOWN, W.VA. – The West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) and WVU Medicine, in conjunction with Oura Health, have addressed a major concern regarding the spread of COVID-19. The RNI has created a digital platform that can detect COVID-19 related symptoms up to three days before they show up.

Later in the article, this totally unreferenced and incredibly brazen statement is made:

The RNI platform uses the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute app, the Oura Ring, and artificial intelligence (AI)guided models to forecast and predict the onset of COVID-19 related symptoms (e.g. fevers, coughing, breathing difficulties, fatigue, and others) three days in advance with over 90 percent accuracy. This technology can potentially serve as a critical decision making tool to help contain the spread of the virus, safely re-open communities, strengthen the economy, and facilitate public health containment strategies.

Although no scientific references are given for this statement on the Oura website or the RNI website it appears to have come from a doctor at RNI:

“We are continuously monitoring the mind-body connectivity through our integrated neuroscience platform measuring the autonomic nervous system, fatigue, anxiety, circadian rhythms, and other human resilience and recovery functions,” Dr. Ali Rezai, executive chair of the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, said

With absolutely no data references, Rezai then makes the following statement:

“Our AI-driven models are currently predicting symptoms 24 hours prior to onset, and we are working toward a three-plus day forecast. This forecasting capability will help us get ahead of this pandemic; limit the spread to protect healthcare workers, their families, and our communities; and improve our understanding of health recovery.”

In an article published online on April 8, 2020  by West Virginia University Today, Rezai begins to sound like a salesman for Oura:

“We have done extensive research in the wearable space, and Oura’s accuracy and usability is unparalleled to anything we have tested,” Rezai added, “We are proud to partner with Oura and its innovation to serve our population.”

West Virginia University should be ashamed to have its employees making these types of unsubstantiated claims and Oura should modify its marketing material to make it clear that the Oura ring has no currently proven capability for early diagnosis of COVID-19.

Skeptically Yours,

-ACP

Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on facebook
Facebook

5 thoughts on “Oura and West Virginia University Should Retract Unsubstantiated Claims Related to Oura Ring and COVID-19”

  1. Oura is misleading it’s customers: nothing on your wrist of finger can track sleep stages, REM sleep etc.

    Reply
  2. I’m a non medical pro and a oura customer. I read your very negative review of oura.ring last year. I have had a very positive experience and wore both Fitbit and oura at the same time I found oura to be more accurate.

    I got the flu in January and my oura ring predicted the illness about 2 days before I felt really sick, as my hrv dropped to a low flatline during sleep and resting heart rate increased.

    I have seen reports that covid infection has been shown to drop hrv while at the same time dropping resting hr.

    I am puzzled why you are passionately denouncing the work of this company that from my perspective is doing so much good for me and many others.

    Reply
  3. Excellent article for calling out unsubstantiated claims. If there are Coivd solutions, that would be great but give the public the facts.

    I was a bit surprised that a device that tracks pulse rate & movement is sophisticated enough to track a cough versus walking up a stairs.

    Reply
  4. I think you are being too skeptical. Surely a well-crafted advertisement is equal to or better than a peer-reviewed study. Handling data is just so difficult and unnecessary, haven’t you learned that from the current environment? (Keep up the good work!)

    Reply

Please leave your comments. The skeptical cardiologist loves feedback. He reads all and replies to all that warrant a reply.

%d bloggers like this: