Apple Watch heart features show promise, but more research needed, Stanford study says

Stanford (Calif.) University School of Medicine released its preliminary results of its Apple Heart Study, which indicated the wearable technology can identify heart rate irregularities.

The medical school began the Apple-sponsored study in November 2017. More than 400,000 people were enrolled who had an Apple Watch and an iPhone. If the wearable detected an irregular heart pulse, the participant would receive a notification and was asked to schedule a telemedicine consultation. Participants were then sent ambulatory electrocardiography patches, which recorded electrical rhythm for up to a week. 

Four key findings:

1. Only 0.5 percent of participants received irregular pulse notifications.

2. When comparing the irregular pulse detection on Apple Watch with the ECG patch, the Apple Watch had a 71 percent positive predictive value. Around 84 percent of the time, participants who received notifications were found to be in atrial fibrillation.

3. More than one-third (34 percent) of participants who received notifications and followed up with the ECG patch were found to have atrial fibrillation.

4. After receiving the notification, 54 percent of participants sought out medical attention.

“The study’s findings have the potential to help patients and clinicians understand how devices like the Apple Watch can play a role in detecting conditions such as atrial fibrillation,” the study authors said.

“The performance and accuracy we observed in this study provides important information as we seek to understand the potential impact of wearable technology on the health system. Further research will help people make more informed health decisions.”

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