Are Apples Good for you
The previous episode of this article would have remained un-written, but for the fact that when the company forgets the balance sheet and trying to procure another grand out of it’s followers (who just happen to be about the most loyal brand customers in the world), by selling us an additional 200 pixels, or a second simcard slot (iPhone), or an unscrambled menu, or brighter colours, or a new strap release (iWatch), or wireless ear-buds, or another incompatible USB port. When it turns to it’s original philanthropic and groundbreaking ethos, Apple really does light-up the world in a new and awe inspiring glow.
Causes of Irregular heartbeat
I think that it was back in around November 2017, when Apple announced ( to much of the usual Apple trumpet and fanfare) that it was about to join forces with Stanford University’s School of Medicine, in a Heart Study utilising their newly revamped heart rate monitor in the Apple Watch.
The initial results of which have just been released, and honestly they are astounding. Not only for the fact the enormity of the numbers. The study was drawn from 400,000 participants, which easily makes it the most broadly sampled heart study ever undertaken.
Atrial Fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) causes over 750,00 hospitalisations per year and over 130,000 deaths, in the US, alone. Effecting upwards of around 6.1 million Americans, the condition often goes un-noticed, and un-diagnosed because the victim rarely suffers on a daily basis.
The Apple heart rate monitor is capable of picking up Atrial Fibrillation, and so this capability was at the centre of the study.
The standard heart rate App was modified to specifically monitor for signs of irregular heart rate, and when detected an advisory message was placed on-screen instructing the wearer to book a telephone consultation with a doctor working on the study. The patients were then sent (AECG) ambulatory electrocardiography patches, which measured the heart rate for up to a week.
The preliminary results have been nothing short of impressive.
Comparing the irregular pulse detection on the Apple Watch to ECG patch recordings showed the pulse detection algorithm had a 71% positive predictive value. 84% of the time, the participants who received notifications were found to be in atrial fibrillation at the time. 57% of those who received irregular pulse notifications sought medical attention. Providing hard evidence of the potential benefits of wearing devices equipped with a passive heart rate monitor.
Laying Fears to Rest
One of the biggest barriers to the acceptance of such wearables by the medical fraternity has always been the perception that they would cause a spike in patients seeking medical help due to over reporting, so negating any benefits to be gained by early reporting.
So possibly the key finding of the study was that out of 419,093 participants, only 0.5% of participants (2,116) received irregular pulse notifications.
“The results of the Apple Heart Study highlight the potential role that innovative digital technology can play in creating more predictive and preventive health care,” said Lloyd Minor, M.D., dean of the Stanford School of Medicine. “Atrial fibrillation is just the beginning, as this study opens the door to further research into wearable technologies and how they might be used to prevent disease before it strikes—a key goal of Precision Health.”
Breaking New Ground
Through it’s participation in the tests Apple have not only broken new ground in proving the accuracy of such wearable technology in this one small area, but have opened the door to the possibilities of proving the reliability of several more innovations such as the ECG capabilities of the Apple Watch Series 4. Although currently Apple insist that this capability is not meant as a medical tool, as the watch increases it accuracy and dependability we could possibly be seeing the advent of ECG monitoring taking place outside of the hospital environment.
“The performance and accuracy we observed in this study provide important information as we seek to understand the potential impact of wearable technology on the health system,” says Marco Perez, M.D., associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford. “Further research will help people make more informed health decisions.”