Technology titan Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) has taken yet another step toward becoming an important player in the health care world and a potential resource for home-based care providers, particularly when it comes to heart health.
Cupertino, California-based Apple announced Thursday that the newly available ECG app on its Apple Watch Series 4 model will offer a direct-to-consumer product that enables users to take an electrocardiogram from their wrist. The new capability will help capture heart rhythm data when participating Apple Watch users experience symptoms such as a rapid or skilled heart beat, valuable information that can then be shared with physicians or health care providers to prevent negative outcomes.
Electrocardiograms are records or displays of an individual’s heartbeat produced by electrocardiography.
“We are confident in the ability of these features to help users have more informed conversations with their physicians,” Sumbul Desai, Apple’s vice president of Health, said in a statement. “With the ECG app and irregular rhythm notification feature, customers can now better understand aspects of their heart health in a more meaningful way.”
The ECG app and electrocardiogram function — which use electrodes built into the back of smart watches — adds to Apple’s growing collection of health care tools.
In September, Apple also highlighted how its smart watch can detect when falls occur and alert emergency responders. To identify when a hard fall takes place, the Apple Watch Series 4 uses a built-in accelerometer and gyroscope that measures up to 32 G forces.
Apple’s latest innovation will specifically help identify atrial fibrillation (AFib), the most common form of irregular heart rhythm, according to the company. When left untreated, AFib is one of the leading conditions that can result in stroke, the most second common cause of death worldwide.
AFIB affects roughly 9% of older adults living in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The idea that wearables can be used by both patients and their health care providers to manage and improve heart health holds promise and should also be approached with caution to ensure information and data are used responsibly and in concert with other evidence-based tools and guidelines,” said C. Michael Valentine, president of the American College of Cardiology, in a statement.
The ECG app’s ability to accurately classify an ECG recording into AFib and sinus rhythm was validated in a clinical trial of around 600 participants. The ECG app is available to smart watch users for free after downloading the latest software update.
Written by Robert Holly