An Apple a day keeps the doctor away
12th February 2019 by Alex Teckkam
On the lead up to Valentine’s Day hearts are everywhere. Cards, text messages and cradled by fluffy teddy bears. So, what better time is there to start taking care of your heart? But getting check ups with your physician is not always convenient. You need to take time out of your day, schedule appointments in advance and sometimes wait for weeks to get the results. However, with current technological advances, checking up on your heart has never been easier, especially for those with a high risk of more serious heart conditions.
The Apple Heart Study is an example of how medicine is integrating with technology to provide a reliable, accessible and interactive experience. This study is a collaboration between Stanford Medicine and Apple with the aim of determining whether data generated from the heart monitoring feature of the Apple Watch, can be used to identify irregular heart rhythms, including those with the potential to develop into serious health issues such as atrial fibrillation.
The study was initiated back in 2017 and has recruited over 400,000 participants with Apple Watches. The Watch uses LED lights and light-sensitive photodiodes to measure changes in blood flow and estimates a pulse based on these measurements. Pulse rates over time are then reported as tachograms and an in-built algorithm determines whether participants have regular or irregular pulses. If a subsequent video conference with a physician confirms the Apple Watch readings, participants are provided with an ePatch that generates electrocardiograms for up to 7 days for further monitoring. Relevant care is then provided if required.
This virtual screening process made with the patient in mind is unique in that it allowed for large-scale recruitment in a relatively short period of time while also relieving the burden on healthcare providers and services. However, it also has its drawbacks. Misdiagnosis, unnecessary testing and overtreatment are the main concerns of having a patient-centric screening program like the Apple Heart Study. Despite these concerns, this study is a major step in understanding the potential of technology in modernising how we approach medicine in the real world. Wearables in particular are becoming more and more popular with wearables dominating major technology events such as CES and even having their own conferences in the Wearable Tech Summit 2019 and Wearable Technologies Europe 2019. Just listen to an interview of Paul O’Donohoe, Scientific Lead for eCOA at MetaData Solutions who describes the current state of wearables and devices in clinical trials.
The digital evolution in clinical trials
The results from the Apple Heart Study are expected to be available in 2019. In the meantime, read more about the Apple Heart Study from Stanford Medicine or the full study publication from the American Heart Journal.
By Ricky Tsang