Cleveland Clinic study: Apple Watch lags behind physicians in AFib detection

While the Apple Watch Series 4 can serve as a medical-grade ECG device, the wearable itself is not nearly as accurate at reading the collected ECG data as trained physicians, a recent Cleveland Clinic-led study found.

In the study, 50 cardiac surgery patients used the ECG-equipped Apple Watch for heart rhythm readings three times per day for two days. The readings were evaluated for occurrences of atrial fibrillation both by the Apple Watch's own technology and by a cardiologist's assessment of the accompanying PDF printout of waveform strips generated by the Apple Health app.

While the Apple Watch alone only detected 41 percent of the patients' instances of AFib, cardiologists were able to do so from the wearable-generated PDF 98 percent of the time. There were no false positives generated by either evaluation method, and the ECG detected all AFib instances, proving that the Apple Watch ECG is a powerful diagnostic aid, but certainly not a stand-in for physicians.

"The data suggests that further technological advances are necessary before these wearables can be fully incorporated into current clinical management," Milind Desai, MD, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist and director of clinical operations in the department of cardiovascular medicine, said in a statement.

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