Results from a new study observed that wearable technology such as an Apple Watch can safely identify heart rate irregularities that were eventually confirmed to be atrial fibrillation.
The Apple Heart Study has enrolled more than 400,000 patients over eight months, making it the largest virtual study to date, according to a news release. It was launched in November 2017 to determine if software on the device could use data from its heart rate pulse sensor to identify AFib.
Results showed that 0.52% of participants received an irregular pulse notification, alleviating concerns over potential over-notification for healthy participants. Those who received notification were monitored by an ECG patch and, after two weeks, 34% were found to have AFib. A comparison between irregular pulse detection on the Apple Watch and simultaneous ECG patch recordings showed the pulse detection algorithm had an 84% positive predictive value.
The study also revealed that, of participants who received an irregular pulse notification, 76% contacted either the telehealth provider or a non-study provider, suggesting that they actively sought medical attention after the Apple Watch identified an irregularity.
Data from the study released in March showed the same amount of patients receiving the notification and the same percentage of patients found to have AFib. However, the latest results showed a sizeable increase in those who sought medical attention, with 57% of patients doing so according to the earlier results.
“The study’s findings will help patients and clinicians understand how devices like the Apple Watch can play a role in identifying atrial fibrillation, a deadly and often undiagnosed disease,” Stanford University School of Medicine associate professor of cardiovascular medicine Dr. Mintu Turakhia said in the news release. “Additionally, these important findings lay the foundation for further research into the use of emerging wearable technologies in clinical practice and demonstrate the unique potential of large-scale app-based studies.”
“The performance and accuracy we observed in this study provide important information as we seek to understand the potential impact of wearable technology on the health system,” added associate professor of cardiovascular medicine Dr. Marco Perez. “What the Apple Heart Study shows us is that atrial fibrillation is just the beginning. We can look ahead to other areas of preventive medicine. Further research will help people make more informed health decisions.”