Apple launched the Apple Watch Series 4 in September, with the new, much-awaited capability of taking ECG (electrocardiogram) readings right from your wrist. This feature, which had just been given approval by the FDA at that time, has just gone live in the United States and is designed for people age 22 and over.
Apple estimates that atrial fibrillation can affect up to 2% of the younger population in the US, and 9% over the age of 65.
The Apple Watch’s ability to take electrocardiogram readings – a recording of the heart’s electrical activity – with minimal effort, is revolutionary among technological tools of its size. It takes seconds to register your reading, after which the gadget displays one of three screens: AFib, Sinus Rhythm, or inconclusive.
AFib refers to atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rate that causes poor blood flow and can lead to stroke. The Sinus Rhythm screen also tells the user that no sign of atrial fibrillation has been detected in the reading.
How can you use this capability?
You can take an ECG reading by resting your arm with the device on a flat surface, and placing the index finger of the other hand on the Digital Crown on the display for thirty seconds. This completes a circuit, and allows the electrodes on the bottom of the watch to record your heart rhythm.
Apple has stressed that this reading is by no means a substitute for visiting the doctor, but readings have been seen to be extremely accurate — the Watch demonstrated 98.3% sensitivity in detecting atrial fibrillation and a 99.6% specificity, according to the technology giant.
The Apple Watch Series 4’s capability of taking a 30-second ECG reading is the latest development in wearable technology making healthcare processes more user-friendly and easy to operate.
“The role that technology plays in allowing patients to capture meaningful data about what’s happening with their heart, right when it’s happening, like the functionality of an on-demand ECG, could be significant in new clinical care models and shared decision making between people and their healthcare providers,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, in a statement.
The Apple Heart Study evaluated the watch’s irregular rhythm background notification feature in addition to screening people for atrial fibrillation.
“We are confident in the ability of these features to help users have more informed conversations with their physicians,” said Sumbul Desai, M.D., Apple’s VP of health, in the statement. “With the ECG app and irregular rhythm notification feature, customers can now better understand aspects of their heart health in a more meaningful way.”