By Gokul Siddharthan J, DCMME Graduate Student Assistant

Apple Watch Heart

In recent years, there are several gadgets that monitor heartbeats. They come in various forms and design, offering functions that weren’t around or even thought of a few years ago. One of the major transformations into smart gadgets has been the wearables segment, e.g. watches. Nowadays, smart watches perform functions that were done by phones a decade ago. They not only provide the time of day, but also the weather, heart monitors, steps taken, messages, emails, GPS, news, phone calls, music, and other apps that are supported by the device.

One device that has stood out from its competition is the Apple Watch compared to its peers, such as Samsung, Fossil, Garmin, and Fitbit. The Apple watch has been rated the best smartwatch for several years. It launched at a time when the popularity of smartwatches wasn’t great. Apple not only introduced the watch but also converted many users of traditional watches and altered its perception. Now Apple has started to make inroads into health care applications. Recent versions of the Apple watch have been able to monitor heartbeats and notify you of irregular heart rhythms, but now the latest version, Watch Series 4, can provide an ECG of the wearer. Users can simply open the app, hit start, hold a finger on the digital crown, and it will take a reading. This feature has been approved by the American Heart Association, and by the FDA too.

A new feature of this watch is its ability to inspect the ECG for signs of a common heart arrhythmia called “atrial fibrillation”, or AFib. It is one of the most common cardiac conditions and occurs when the heart’s upper chambers do not beat in a coordinated fashion. Blood pools in parts of the chambers, forming clots, and such patients are three to five times more likely to have a stroke. AFib occurs in around 2% of the population. The risk of suffering from it increases greatly with age.

The recent “Apple Heart Study”, covering 420,000 patients, looked at the predictive value of the device monitoring for irregular pulses. It found the watch only agreed with a gold-standard method 84% of the time. A study conducted by a research organization contracted by Apple found the app’s algorithm was able to correctly identify 98.3% of true positives and 99.6% of true negatives. These numbers are far better than the rest of the competition. Being approved by the FDA and in several other countries for its applications, shows the extent of technology penetrating into health care. Health care must get ready for the inevitable, which is technology in medicine. There is going to be a torrent of data coming in and it’ll be wise to build the infrastructure to handle it. And Dr Jonathan Mant, a professor of primary care research at the University of Cambridge concludes it is “paradigm-shifting. I just don’t know if it is going to be in a good way or a bad way.”