Will the new Apple Watch reduce your chances of having a Stroke?

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What started off as a simple Heart Rate monitor 3 years ago has now spawned into a possible self detection unit for heart abnormalities. Does this spell the end for our need of Doctors? Are we closer to becoming cyborgs with every passing Apple launch?

It has been speculated for a while that the new Apple Watch will contain an ECG feature that will be able to measure the hearts rhythm in real time. While we will not know if this will be the case until tomorrows event, it is interesting to delve into some of the questions this will raise and how we as consumers should react.

Does this remove the need for Doctors and Technologists?

If the new ECG feature is able to detect rhythm changes such as Atrial Fibrillation (A heart rhythm disorder and common cause of Stroke), then why do we need to visit the doctor for regular cardio vascular checkups?

It is unlikely that Apple is wanting to take on the liability of providing the full ECG reading to the consumer and its potential meaning. This is as doing so could lead to future litigation issues if the readings are proved incorrect. As such the ECG feature will probably just allow you as a user to attain a more accurate HR reading, great for those of us that love to track our cardiovascular data as a measure of our overall fitness.

If they do however provide this reading then Doctors and Technologists could find an uptick in business as opposed to becoming obsolete. With ECG data like most tests it is the interpretation that is most important as this is what predicts possible underlying pathology. Without good AI and previous data at present due to the new nature of the technology the only conceivable way of doing this is via human verification.

Will Doctors (& other health professionals) want to touch this with a 10 foot pole?

This is the more interesting question I believe as we aren’t sure of the reliability of the data that is being collected. More and more often people (& rightly so) are coming into clinics with more information related to their health status, providing practitioners with health indicators that can assist with diagnosis and treatment. The problem with a reading such as an ECG is that there will always be variability depending on the person interpreting the data, leading to possible misdiagnosis and legal action in some cases.

If health experts aren’t given data regarding the validity of studies which Apple has conducted into their sensors then it may be possible that the data is completely dismissed in the short term as to protect themselves. I believe that the best course of action would be to use this data as a means for deciding if more extensive testing is required. This would be a form of wearable preventative testing for the clued in user.

Could the Apple Watch ECG sensor reduce the chances of a Stroke?

Short answer…YES.

If Apple have chosen to go through the necessary legal hoops to attain medical technology approval, allowing them to provide the necessary data to the end user, then it should be possible to reduce ones chance of having a Stroke. In preventative health care education and awareness are key and increased data access in the right informed hands is always an effective way to maintain great wellness.

If a wearer is taught what red flags on the ECG to monitor on a daily and weekly basis then they should be able to detect rhythmic changes that are not within normal ranges. By noticing these changes they can contact the appropriate member of their health team and organise a consultation to organise the next appropriate steps in treatment. When these changes are detected early enough lifestyle changes and medication can be effective in reducing Stroke prevalence.

So is it worth the possible $450+ price tag? Well only you can weigh up what your wellness is worth and decide that. I for one am excited by the possibilities as a health expert & end user and as such will be looking at making the investment.

Bryce Finck