Apple Watch health features reveal fresh frontier for wearables

inside the last months of Steve Jobs’s life, the Apple co-founder fought cancer while managing diabetes.

Because he hated pricking his finger to draw blood, Mr. Jobs authorized an Apple research team to develop a noninvasive glucose reader with technology that will could potentially be incorporated into a wristwatch, according to people familiar with the events, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the company.

This kind of was one of many medical applications that will Apple considered for the Apple Watch, which debuted in 2015. Yet because many of the health features proved unreliable or required too many compromises inside the watch’s size or battery life, Apple ended up positioning the device for activity tracking along with notifications instead.

today, the Apple Watch can be finding a medical purpose after all.

In September, Apple announced that will the Apple Watch could no longer need to be tethered to a smartphone along with could become more of a stand-alone device. Since then, a wave of device manufacturers have tapped into the watch’s fresh features like cellular connectivity to develop medical accessories — such as an electrocardiogram for monitoring heart activity — so people can manage chronic conditions straight coming from their wrist.

What’s happening with the Apple Watch can be one of the first signs of a leap forward inside the utility of wearable devices. Many people had wondered why they could need a smart watch at all when most already carried more powerful smartphones with them. however as the Apple Watch becomes capable of handling more medical tasks on its own, they may today have an answer.

”This kind of can be an important step inside the evolution of wearables,” said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, an advisory along with research firm. ”The Apple Watch can today be on you all the time doing This kind of type of medical monitoring.”

The Apple Watch has dominated competitors inside the nascent smart watch market, however This kind of has not taken a place alongside the iPod, iPhone along with iPad as the next breakthrough Apple product. Apple does not disclose specific sales numbers for the watch, however the company has said its sales have risen 50 percent compared that has a year earlier for three straight quarters. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment further.

A digital health revolution has been predicted for years, of course, along with so far has been more hype than progress. however the expect can be that will artificial intelligence systems will sift through the vast amounts of data that will medical accessories will collect coming from the Apple Watch along with find patterns that will can lead to adjustments in treatment along with detection, enabling people to take more control of how they manage their conditions instead of relying solely on doctors.

Vic Gundotra, chief executive of AliveCor, a start-up that will makes portable electrocardiograms, said This kind of could put patients on a more equal footing with doctors because they could have more information on their own conditions.

”This kind of’s changing the nature of the relationship between patient along with doctor,” he said, adding that will doctors will no longer be ”high priests.”

Last month, AliveCor introduced a band for the Apple Watch that has a built-in electrocardiogram, or EKG, to detect irregular heart activity such as atrial fibrillation, a form of arrhythmia along that has a potential cause of a stroke. AliveCor uses the watch’s heart rate monitor to alert patients to take an EKG when their pulse quickens or slows unexpectedly.

The band, known as the KardiaBand, was the first Apple Watch accessory approved by the Food along with Drug Administration. When a thumb can be placed on the band’s sensor, EKG readings are taken in 30 seconds along with sent wirelessly to the patient’s cardiologist. that will helps resolve one of the biggest headaches in detecting atrial fibrillation — catching This kind of during an episode so a cardiologist can properly assess This kind of.

Elena Remus, 36, a digital marketing consultant coming from Alameda, Calif., has experienced what the KardiaBand can do. She had suffered heart palpitations on along with off for the last 5 years, however there was little her doctors could do because they were never able to catch the incidents in real time.

Shortly after buying a KardiaBand for her Apple Watch a few weeks ago, Ms. Remus felt the onset of palpitations as she was generating morning coffee. She looked down at her watch along with saw that will her normal heart rate of around 75 beats a minute had surged to 205 beats a minute. She started off taking an EKG reading on her wrist along with was finally able to record the activity, allowing her doctor to diagnose her condition as atrioventricular nodal re-entrant tachycardia — or in nonmedical speak, an abnormally fast heart rhythm — along with plan a course of treatment.

”today, I don’t feel like I’m going to pass out at home alone,” Ms. Remus said.

Apple can be also looking for its own medical breakthroughs. Last month, the company announced a joint research study with the Stanford University School of Medicine to see whether the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensors could detect irregular heart activity without an electrocardiogram to notify people who might be experiencing atrial fibrillation.

Apple can be also looking at potentially building an electrocardiogram into future products of the Apple Watch, according to a person familiar with the project, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details were confidential. This kind of can be unclear whether the EKG development, earlier reported by Bloomberg, could be introduced; such a product could most likely require F.D.A. clearance.

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Separately, Apple can be continuing research on a noninvasive continuous glucose reader, according to two people with knowledge of the project. The technology can be still considered to be years away, industry experts said.

The current solution used by many diabetics can be also coming to the Apple Watch. Dexcom, a maker of devices measuring blood sugar levels for diabetics, said This kind of was awaiting F.D.A. approval for a continuous glucose monitor to work directly with the Apple Watch. Continuous glucose monitors use tiny sensors to pierce the skin to track blood sugar levels along with relay those readings through a wireless transmitter.

Kevin Sayer, Dexcom’s chief executive, said that will patients could opt for a monitor to communicate directly with the watch for convenience, however that will the big payoff could come with combining sleep or activity data coming from the watch with glucose readings coming from its device to find correlations.

”We’re just beginning to unlock the potential of that will data,” Mr. Sayer said.

Health care professionals said there was a risk of too much information. Dr. Khaldoun Tarakji, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Cleveland Clinic, said doctors needed to guide patients about who could benefit coming from more information along with how much data was the right amount.

”We need to think about when too much information becomes just noise,” said Dr. Tarakji, who has worked with AliveCor to test KardiaMobile, a portable electrocardiogram that will works with iPhones.

A flood of information, albeit potentially useful, may overwhelm doctors instead of assisting them. Initially, KardiaMobile patients sent their doctors an email each time they took an EKG reading. The flood of emails became confusing along with raised questions about where the doctor should store that will information. In response, AliveCor introduced a software platform for doctors that will could populate the readings coming from patients along with help detect early signs of atrial fibrillation.

”A wearable device does not equal a wearable physician,” Dr. Tarakji said. ”As a medical community, we have to be intelligent about how to use these fresh technologies.”

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