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Is The Prevention Circul+ Wellness Ring The Future Of Wearable Health Monitors?

Neil Friedman, founder and COO of BodiMetrics, thinks his company is onto something huge with its Prevention circul+ Wellness Ring and its associated tracking app. “I see us as akin to the Phillips SonicCare toothbrush that shook up that entire industry,” he said. “They’re the Rolls-Royce of toothbrushes. I want us to be that for wellness devices.”

The co-branding of the circul+ Ring’s newest version in October by Prevention Magazine certainly lends those thoughts some major credibility. And since one of the primary functions of the ring is measuring the oxygen concentration in the wearer’s blood, and with COVID making that particular measurement critical, the timing looks impeccable.

The ring itself is fairly unobtrusive. It comes in three sizes, and is automatically adjusted for fit by side springs that also pull its sensors tight against the inside of the finger. This new ring form factor enables the sensor technology to measure blood oxygen in a constant manner that’s never before been achieved.

Friedman and CEO Mark Goettling launched the company in 2015. “Mark and I started it with no cash,” said Friedman. “We learned how to take our dollars and maximize them. I took no salary for seven years. But now we have people approaching us with major funding.”

They may have been cash-poor, but they had a firm basis for their company’s purpose from the get-go. That was thanks to Friedman’s background as a serial entrepreneur and his discovery of the technology for the company’s early medical tracking products on a trip to China in 2014, where an R&D company had already developed it and needed help with distribution. That company was aiming for FDA approval for its device here in the U.S., which would have greatly delayed any product launch because of the time that requires. But the 2015 General Wellness Act allowed BodiMetrics to bring it to market much faster as an informational device instead of a diagnostic one. “That first device sold in Bloomingdales and blew out in ecommerce,” Friedman said.

It was at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that Friedman came across what would evolve to become the Prevention circul+™ Ring. Once again, it was technology that had been developed by a product developer in China, Megahealth. “Jan with Megahealth’s first call after the CES was from me,” said Friedman, “and I’ve been on the phone with him ever since. Our collaboration has been so beneficial.”

There was work to be done on that early version. “It was way too bulky, so I knew we had to redesign it,” Friedman explained. “Not just the size, but we had to make it more comfortable, and make it so the sensors would be stable. We did a trial with the Veterans Administration and found other problems with wearers based on metrics. We worked with Kaiser and did many more trials. We got it to where it was achieving medical-grade metrics. The pulse oximeter in the ring is extremely good.”

The Prevention circul+ Ring measures not only blood oxygen, but heart rate, finger temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate variability, all recorded wirelessly in its custom mobile app. It also records single-lead electrocardiogram (ECG), which represents the heart’s electrical action and is used to monitor heart health. The digital data is then quite easy to share with doctors and loved ones.

Dr. Meir Kryger is the chief editor of the world's most-used textbook on sleep medicine. The esteemed professor at Yale’s School of Medicine is the Chief Medical Advisor instrumental in developing the Prevention circul+ Ring. Image courtesy Dr. Meir Kryger

As the technology improved, the ring caught the attention of the medical community. One such expert is Meir Kryger, MD, FRCP(C), Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary) and Clinical Professor of Nursing at Yale Medical School. His textbook on sleep medicine is the most-used textbook around the world. For Dr. Kryger, who now sits on the BodiMetrics Medical Advisory Board, the ring caught his attention because of his specialty. “I’m in sleep medicine,” he said. “I’ve been in that for a bazillion years. For sleep, one key measurement is blood oxygen level. I’ve looked at many oximeters. They’re not all the same–they’re very different from one another.” Recent reports have exposed that many oximeters used in hospitals and medical offices can be inaccurate, and many report an unintended racial bias with particular inaccuracies in patients with dark skin. This may cause improper diagnoses that can have catastrophic impact.

Dr. Kryger was impressed by what he saw in the raw validation data from China, testing that compared oxygen saturation readings of the ring to simultaneous readings of boood obtained from arteries. “When the pandemic hit the circul+ Ring showed its tremendous advantage. The ring’s FDA approval is pending, but it’s turning out to be a very good solution during COVID when we previously had no other way to get patients’ oxygen saturation data,” he explained. “During the height of the pandemic, we weren’t bringing people into the lab. And the normal way to measure at people’s homes was to send out a device with a company that instructs the patient on its use and then picks it up afterward. But the companies that do that weren’t going into people’s homes.”

By having patients use a ring to record key measures during sleep, Dr. Kryger was able to continue his work with them. “We started to do a lot of things differently during COVID, like telemedicine,” he said. “In just two or three days at Yale, we went from no telemedicine to 100%. It’s changed a lot of things in my field, and it’s very likely some of those things, like telemedicine, will continue.”

Dr. Kryger sees big things ahead for the Prevention circul+ Ring. “The device keeps getting better and better. The current device will read single-lead ECG, and will read blood pressure. All of its measures need to be validated, but in the future, it could measure other things like blood glucose. The sky’s the limit.”

Another physician took notice of the circul+ Ring because of COVID, but in her case it was for very personal reasons. Gloria Trujillo, MD, is a family medicine doctor in Asheville, North Carolina, who does work in long-term care facilities. After working 24 straight days during the initial pandemic outbreak, she contracted a severe case of COVID, and now suffers from Long COVID.

“My job requires a lot of walking, so I needed something that would stop me when my vitals drop,” she explained. “I tried a lot of things, like a wrist watch with finger monitor, but that would drop off. The ring works very well–I didn’t have anything else where I could wash my hands and use hand sanitizer while wearing it. It’s really helped me understand what’s going on with me. It’s helped me pace myself.”

Interestingly, she’s had a point of commonality with Dr. Kryger’s work as well. “It’s also helped me at night. COVID insomnia is really bad. So I did a sleep study and found I was getting no deep sleep. The ring let me to see my nighttime oxygen desaturations going to the low 80% range. That allowed me to get on oxygen in August, which let me to really rest and re-oxygenate. I think that’s been one of my biggest improvements.”

Even though her use was focused on her own specific recovery needs, Dr. Trujillo sees valuable everyday uses for the Prevention circul+ Ring. “I’ve been a doctor since 1992 and I’ve never seen a device before that works in all facets of life,” she said. “It’s hard to get O2 while walking, for example. The ring allows you to monitor yourself and bring or send the results to your doctor. This company wants people to achieve their wellness. And they welcome feedback. I’ve gotten some things added to it from my wish list.”

That’s just the kind of thing Friedman likes to hear. “We’re providing the tools for people to monitor themselves and keep themselves healthy,” he said. “We’re providing information that’s never been available before. We’re breaking new ground, taking the device off the wrist and putting it on the finger, where it can perform very well and with accuracy. There’s nothing greater in life than being in a business where you help people’s health.”

This article has been edited to clarify comments from Dr. Kryger and Dr. Trujillo.

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