What if your smartwatch can save your life? Recently, Apple introduced a smartwatch containing an ECG feature. The Apple Watch Series 4 was FDA cleared to detect and manage the presence of atrial fibrillation (AF), an irregular rapid heart rhythm. With AF being the most frequent type of arrhythmia in the adult population, it can be beneficial to incorporate new technology to prevent risks such as stroke.
Apple smartwatches include heart rate monitors that use light beams and light-sensitive sensors to detect changes in blood volume passing through a person's wrist caused by the peripheral pulse. This process is utilized to generate a PPG which can estimate heart rate and detect abnormalities such as AF. Although numerous smartwatches can replicate this process, Apple is the first to be FDA-cleared. In a heart study, individuals with irregular heart rhythms were alerted with a notification and given the option to obtain the iECG report to confirm whether AF was present.
Wearable technology such as a single-lead ECG can be applied in research studies as well. iECG's can be essential in evaluating QTc changes, measuring blood electrolyte concentration, and even potassium levels. With these capabilities, researchers can personalize AF care and improve the overall quality of life for these patients.
While this new technology can be beneficial in improving patient care, some challenges still need to be addressed. Apple watches can be costly which can prevent an individual with AF from purchasing one. As seen in previous trials, the occurrence of false positives and negatives can increase an individual's unnecessary anxiety about their heart health. These issues, along with the HR limitations of a single lead system may inaccurately report a patient's data to their physician. Thus, there are still various improvements that can be made to the overall iECG feature.
If you would be allowed to use the iECG feature - would you? While this feature does contain some flaws, it has the potential to evaluate and screen patients diagnosed with AF or even alert individuals of an abnormal rhythm. While this device may not be perfect, incorporating it into your daily activities can transform the way you take care of your heart.
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