How the Wearable Industry Could Catch Strokes Before They Happen

May 15, 2017

4:30 pm

Get ready for the future of wearable healthcare: a University of California, San Francisco, study has confirmed last week that the Apple Watch can identify an abnormal heart rhythm with 97 percent efficiency. Here’s how it works, and why wearables are such a great fit for the healthcare industry.

The Science

The study, in partnership with the Apple app Cardiogram, found that the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensing feature can detect atrial fibrillation. That’s a “common heart arrhythmia that can lead to stroke,” as Apple Insider explains:

“As part of ongoing research, a deep neural network was trained and paired with Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor to automatically distinguish atrial fibrillation from normal heart rhythm in a pool of test patients. Findings were presented at the Heart Rhythm Society’s Heart Rhythm 2017 conference on Thursday.”

The study used 139 million heart rate measurements from over six thousand participants to train their algorithm.

Healthcare Is the Best Application for Wearables

Wearables haven’t been taking off quite as quickly as many had hoped: Sure, you can tell time and look cool with a smartwatch, but that’s about the same as a normal watch. Are the added benefits that much better, given the extra security concerns? If wearables can’t earn themselves some respect for the new benefits they bring to the table, they’ll never soar.

But healthcare is easily the best use for them. The ability to monitor vital signs on a real-time basis is a huge boon for healthcare, and it’s also the biggest identifier that a wearable boasts to distinguish it from a PC or a smartphone. And obviously knowing that your tech can help prevent you from having a stroke is a huge benefit that would spur anyone with the disposable income to buy a flashy new Apple Watch.

Thanks to big data and neural networks, we can develop the technology to use wearables as predictors of potential future problems. Aside from tracking your toddler’s whereabouts, monitoring an individual’s health is the best use of wearables in the near future.

The future of wearable healthcare is certainly clear to the Cardiogram team: In addition to exploring the industry regulations they’ll meet in order to incorporate their new findings into their app, Cardiogram is looking into even more heart conditions that wearable tech might be able to uncover.

Read more about wearables here on Tech.Co

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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