The ECG app could help patients be more proactive with their heart health.
Apple released its ECG app for the Apple Watch Series 4 this week, bringing an electrocardiogram reader to millions of consumers’ wrists
The ECG app captures heart rhythm when the consumer experiences symptoms such as rapid or skipped heart beat, providing important data to physicians. The Apple Watch also features an irregular heart rhythm notification that checks heart rhythms in the background and sends the wearer a notification if irregularities appear to be atrial fibrillation.
When atrial fibrillation — the most common form of irregular rhythm — is left untreated, it is one of the leading conditions that can result in stroke, the second most common cause of death around the world.
“With the ECG app and irregular rhythm notification feature, customers can now better understand aspects of their heart health in a more meaningful way,” Apple’s vice president of health, Sumbul Desai, M.D., said.
Desai is also hopeful that the app will help users have more informed conversations with their physicians.
Apple built new electrodes into the back crystal, and the watch’s Digital Crown will work with the app to take an ECG.
When users touch the crown with their finger, the circuit is completed and electrical signals across their heart are measured. The whole scan takes 30 seconds, and the heart rhythm is classified as either atrial fibrillation, sinus rhythm or inconclusive. Results and symptoms are stored in the Health app on iPhone.
PDF files of results can be shared with physicians.
The ECG app was tested in a clinical trial of 600 participants to assess its accuracy in classifying the recording into atrial fibrillation and sinus rhythm. The study found that the app demonstrated 98.3 percent sensitivity classifying atrial fibrillation and 99.6 percent specificity in classifying sinus rhythms.
In total, 87.8 percent of recordings could be classified by the app.
An optical heart sensor in Apple Watch Series 1 or later, the irregular rhythm notification will alert the user if an irregular rhythm is detected on five rhythm checks over a minimum of 65 minutes.
The irregular rhythm notification featured was studied in the Apple Heart Study. Of those who received a notification while wearing an ECG patch, 80 percent showed atrial fibrillation on the patch, and 98 percent showed atrial fibrillation or other clinically relevant arrhythmias.
“The role that technology plays in allowing patients to capture meaningful data about what’s happening with their heart, right when it’s happening, like the functionality of an on-demand ECG, could be significant in new clinical care models and shared decision making between people and their healthcare providers,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association.
The ECG app, which gained medical device clearance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is available as part of a free update to watchOS 5.1.2.
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