Apple Heart Study launches as FDA clears first Apple Watch EKG reader

Apple Watch Sport

But the company, in collaboration with Stanford Medicine, launched the Apple Heart Study app on Thursday that uses the heart rate sensor inside the Apple Watch to collect data on irregular heart rhythms.

Atrial fibrillation is one of the highest rates of arrhythmias occurring in the general populace with a number of medical management strategies. The move underscores Apple's focus on using its products for health care. The star of the show was the iPhone X, although Apple unveiled a bunch of other products including the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and the LTE Apple Watch. Apple already employs a small staff of medical professionals to develop its health products, and it is reportedly working on a diabetes glucose-monitoring device that won't pierce the skin.

That same ongoing study has also concluded the same results may be available to any wearable heart rate sensor, including those found within Garmin, Fitbit or Android Wear as they all have similar components.

Atrial fibrillation is the leading cause of stroke and often goes undiagnosed. The condition kills around 130,000 people per year, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We're excited to work with Apple on this breakthrough heart study", said Lloyd Minor, Dean of Stanford University School of Medicine. If it notices something amiss, it will notify that person on the Watch and iPhone. The consultation can then connect users with a board-certified, licensed primary care provider from American Well.

Tech Talk Apple Watches
Tech Talk Apple Watches

Study researchers will also then send an electrocardiogram patch to participants experiencing irregular heartbeats, for a further reading.

Apple unveiled the Apple Heart Study at its iPhone Event in September, along with the new watchOS.

The Apple Watch uses green LED lights that flash hundreds of times per second and light-sensitive photodiodes to analyze blood flow through the wrist, from which heart rhythms are isolated by software algorithms in the watch. When Apple and Stanford are ready to include you in the study you'll get a notification on your iPhone and Apple Watch. After you download the app, you'll be asked to give your consent for participation.

ResearchKit has enabled 12 research study apps, including a Concussion Tracking app from NYU Langone, a mole-mapping app that detects melanoma from Oregon Health and Science University, and an app promoting sleep health from the University of California San Diego, all of which are free on the app store.

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