Apple Unveils Health-Heavy Smartwatch with EKG Reader

Jack Murtha
SEPTEMBER 12, 2018
apple watch series 4,apple watch healthcare focus,health data apple,hca news

The latest edition of the Apple Watch, introduced today, includes a lineup of features that stand to help users manage their health in new ways, potentially bolstering the healthcare wearables market and the company’s place in it.

The Apple Watch Series 4 comes with “revolutionary health capabilities,” from an accelerometer and gyroscope that can detect when a person falls to a personal electrocardiogram (EKG) reader and app, the Silicon Valley powerhouse said in a statement.

Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, said in a statement that the new features have made the smartwatch an “intelligent guardian for your health.”

>> READ: No, Apple Watch Can’t Detect Irregular Heart Rhythms with 97 Percent Accuracy (Yet)

Over the past several years, wearable technologies have become an increasingly important part of the healthcare landscape. They gather otherwise-elusive data and provide real-time monitoring, advancing care, personal health management and research.

For some time, Fitbit was the king of the wearables sector, a market that’s poised for explosive growth. But through its smartwatch, Apple has become the dominant force in the space. The company has invested substantial time and resources into improving the product’s health-oriented features.

Perhaps the most anticipated component of the redesigned Apple Watch is its EKG reader. Approved for medical device marketing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the monitor can take readings in 30 seconds. (AliveCor has developed a similar technology that is already available for the Apple Watch.)

Apple noted that the EKG reader uses electrodes and a heart rate sensor to perform the task, which occurs “in the background,” prompting notifications to the user when necessary. The results and any noted symptoms then live in the Health app and can be shared with doctors.

“It can classify if the heart is beating in a normal pattern or whether there are signs of atrial fibrillation … a heart condition that could lead to major health complications,” the organization said.

The EKG app is slated to debut later this year.

What’s more, the smartwatch can tell when a user falls with the accelerometer, a gyroscope and algorithms. In such a case, the device sends an alert to the consumer, who may use it to contact emergency services. After a minute of immobility, the watch automatically alerts the authorities.

Although the watch is primarily marketed to consumers, the wearables health sector has been turning toward enterprise sales to insurers, health systems and other stakeholders. It’s unclear whether Apple will follow that path.

Customers may order the watch on Friday or buy it in stores beginning Friday, Sept. 21. For more information, click here.

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