Stanford scientists have declared that the Apple Watch is capable of safely identifying the heart rate irregularities known as atrial fibrillation. This is a big step in the Apple Watch being taken seriously as a medical device. A-fib is the leading cause of stroke and hospitalization in the United States,
The research was based on a virtual study involving upward of 400,000 participants. The work was funded by Apple.
“The results of the Apple Heart Study highlight the potential role that innovative digital technology can play in creating more predictive and preventive health care,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine. “Atrial fibrillation is just the beginning, as this study opens the door to further research into wearable technologies and how they might be used to prevent disease before it strikes — a key goal of precision health.”
Participants in the study wore an Apple Watch Series 1, 2, or 3 device. The Apple Watch Series 4, which includes a built-in ECG/EKG reader, wasn’t included because it came out after the study commenced.
Participants downloaded an app, which intermittently checked their heart rate pulse sensor for irregularities. Those who were found to have irregularities were then connected with a doctor. They were also sent ambulatory ECG patches, which recorded the electrical rhythms of their heart for up to one week.
Few false positives
Importantly, the study additionally highlighted the relatively small number of false positives users received. Only around 0.5 percent of participants received irregular pulse notifications. As a press release notes: “84 percent of the time, participants who received irregular pulse notifications were found to be in atrial fibrillation at the time of the notification.”
The research was presented over the weekend during the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session and Expo.
In all, it’s great news for Apple and promising for future medical studies involving wearable devices. Best of all, it’s fantastic for Apple Watch wearers — who get one more data point in the growing pile suggesting that your Apple Watch really could help save your life!