Apple is apparently testing whether the Apple Watch can detect cardiac abnormalities. The company is working on the tests with partners including Stanford and telemedicine company American Well, reports Reuters, according to two unnamed “people familiar with the matter.”
If successful, the move could turn the watch into a must have device for millions of patients. Arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, aren't always problematic. But in some people, a condition known as atrial fibrillation can show no external symptoms while carrying a risk of blood clots, strokes and other complications.
For that reason, an Apple Watch could be a useful screening tool for high-risk patients -- if its heart rate monitor proves to be sufficiently sensitive and accurate, notes Reuters. The smartwatch has already been used in studies to screen for heart rhythm abnormalities.
In a joint study published in May, app developer Cardiogram and researchers at the University of California, San Francisco said the Apple Watch combined with Cardiogram’s algorithm showed the smartwatch’s sensors can differentiate between a normal heart rhythm and atrial fibrillation (AF). In fact, the study identified AF with 97% accuracy.
There’s hope that the Apple Watch combined with Cardiogram’s algorithm can help diagnose a potentially fatal heart condition. Over the past few months, the company has developed a preliminary algorithm to detect AF using the heart rate sensors on Apple’s smartwatch and Android Wear. Cardiogram’s Health & Heart Rate is a free app for the Apple Watch that helps users track sleep, stress, and fitness using your Apple Watch's built-in heart rate sensor.