How the Oura Ring health-monitoring wearable may help make returning to the office safer

The WNBA and NBA provided an Oura Ring to every player to help prevent COVID-19 infection spread. See if this health-monitoring wearable could benefit your workers who are returning to the office.

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The Oura Ring is an unobtrusive, even stylish, wearable that measures and collects a variety of health-related data.

Image: Oura Ring

As some employees return to working in corporate offices, whether in stages, all at once or as part of hybrid return-to-work initiatives, the environment is sure to be different than before the pandemic. Many workplaces will likely continue screening for fevers, while social distancing and masking requirements may remain in force in numerous other locations, too.The Oura Ring, and its accompanying iPhone app (an Android version is also available), can assist returning to the office. 

The electronic wearable device with styles starting at $299 monitors and records body temperature, resting heart rate, respiratory rate and other health-related elements. The ring, surprisingly accurate in my experience wearing the device 24/7 the previous six months, not only alerts you to changes in important biometric measures, it can actually predict illness. The device has proven so effective, the WNBA and NBA provided one to every player in efforts to prevent COVID-19 infection spread.

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The Oura Ring tracks and measures a variety of health factors that can alert the wearer to impending illness or overtraining. A quick glance at body temperature data each morning can help eliminate surprises when being scanned by thermometers in the office lobby, at airports, at dentists, doctors offices and the like. Tracking these trends over time help to develop a healthy baseline that can alert you to impending illness, such as COVID-19 or the flu, before other symptoms become evident (Figure A). That's just what happened to PGA golfer Nick Watney, who tested negative for COVID-19 just a few days before his Oura Ring alerted him to an increased respiratory rate, prompting an emergency COVID-19 test that came back positive.

Figure A

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The Oura Ring's iPhone app tracks various biometric data, including body temperature, over time.

Figure B shows how fevers may be detected when present.

Figure B

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The Oura app uses standard bar charts, among other elements, to alert the user to spikes and changes potentially requiring attention.

Figure C demonstrates a slight recorded rise in respiratory rate. A significant spike in respiratory rate can be a sign of impending illness.

Figure C

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The Oura Ring also captures and records respiratory rate.

A new Oura feature, entirely optional and voluntary, is its Health Risk Management (HRM) platform. The program permits a group of members to share health data with a designated contact, known as a "Coach," who assists better interpreting and understanding the collected health data.

According to Oura, the HRM program leverages data dashboards to assist organizations in identifying and managing risk across workforces. By monitoring participant health metrics using the Oura Ring-collected data, scores can be assigned to help gauge risk. In a quick email exchange with the company's media contact, Oura reiterated the HRM program is a voluntary, opt-in initiative that provides enterprises another option for managing employee health, all while recognizing and honoring widespread privacy concerns.

In my experience, the Oura Ring and iPhone app work well at providing daily health information that can be used to better plan everyday activities, especially considering the Oura's helpful fitness and sleep scores and corresponding recommendations. The device is also intriguingly well-positioned to assist those seeking to more closely watch their health when returning to work in more populated offices. Employers, meanwhile, would be well-served employing the Oura Ring's health tracking information, too, to help create safer spaces in which employees feel more comfortable working.

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By Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...