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How the Apple Watch is starting to realize its clinical potential

How the Apple Watch is starting to realize its clinical potential
[Photo: Crew/Unsplash]

It’s unlikely Apple ever meant the Watch’s high-quality heart rate monitor to merely count heartbeats. An increasing number of clinical trials are searching for other meaningful health data the Watch can reliably detect. The digital health company Cardiogram believes its algorithms, using data from the Watch, can detect diabetes in people with 85% accuracy. In a test of 14,000 Watch wearers conducted with UCSF, the technology correctly detected 462 diabetics among them, TechCrunch reports. Diabetes is a very costly disease, and 100 million U.S. adults are said to have it, or pre-diabetic conditions.

Cardiogram said it earlier used the Apple Watch to detect arrhythmia with 97% accuracy, sleep apnea with 90% accuracy, and hypertension with 82% accuracy.

The study is just the latest indication of the Apple Watch’s clinical and medical ambitions.

  • AliveCor recently gained FDA approval for its KardiaBand, an Apple Watch band with its own EKG sensor, which works together with the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor detect arrhythmia.
  • Last week, Apple released a beta feature in its Health app that lets users automatically download and view parts of their medical records on their iPhones. This will enable users to transfer clinical data, like cholesterol levels or lists of medications, directly from their doctors to their devices; 12 hospitals, including Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore and Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, will participate in the beta test.
  • Apple and Stanford are currently running a study among a wide number of users to find out how well data collected by the Apple Watch can “identify irregular heart rhythms, including those from potentially serious heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation.” In its documentation, Apple says, “This study is part of the development of a new investigational device and certain Study Data will be used for FDA submission to seek approval of the investigational device.”

Future Watch features could include a built-in electrocardiogram, and a noninvasive continuous glucose reader, according to reports by the New York Times and Bloomberg. (In the last months of his life, Steve Jobs, who also battled diabetes, reportedly authorized an Apple research team to design a noninvasive glucose meter in a way that could eventually be part of a wristwatch.)

Apple doesn’t say how many watches it’s sold, but an estimate from research firm Canalys says shipments topped an all-time high of 18 million units in 2017, a more than 50% increase over its 2016 Watch shipments.

Read more: Users: Apple Watch is getting sick at the hospital 

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