Apple Watch's ECG could prompt unneeded medical visits, cardiologists say

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Apple is ramping up its stock in the healthcare industry by adding an electrocardiogram monitor to the Apple Watch Series 4, but the move has left many cardiologists concerned about putting the powerful tech around consumers' wrists.

Specialists told The Seattle Times they are worried giving patients around-the-clock access to such powerful heart-monitoring tools could lead to unnecessary anxiety and medical visits.

Although some say the device — which the FDA has cleared as a Class II medical device, meaning it is intended to diagnose or treat a medical condition and poses a minimal risk — could be good for patients who don't know they have abnormal heart rhythms, they are concerned the watch could alert its wearer to a problem that isn't there, prompting them to visit a physician for no reason.

Ultimately, those unnecessary visits could lead to expensive tests or unnecessary treatment if a patient shows other signs that can be misinterpreted.

Fitness trackers have already prompted anxious wearers to visit their physicians. "I've had to tell patients: Just take off the Fitbit and don't look at the data," Gregory Marcus, MD, a cardiologist and the director of clinical research in cardiology at UC San Francisco, told the publication. However, he added there could be positive medical and financial outcomes from a physician visit triggered by the watch, particularly if the ECG is accurate and could allow for a diagnosis on its own.

Dr. Marcus said educating patients about these heart conditions could reduce some of the patients' anxieties.

"Generally, physicians talk about these things among themselves," he said. "Perhaps this movement into the consumer realm means educating the public about these issues, as well."

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