According to a new study published this week, the heart monitoring feature on the Apple Watch can cause unnecessary health care visits. About 10 percent of people, who saw a doctor at the Mayo Clinic after noticing abnormal pulse readings on their watch, were eventually diagnosed with a heart condition.
It suggests that health monitoring devices at home may lead to greater use of the health care system, study author Heather Heaton said in an email to an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. The ledge. This can be costly for patients and for the system as a whole, and it can unnecessarily take the time of the doctor and the patient.
Heaton and the study team scanned the patient’s health records at every Mayo Clinic site, including offices in Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin and Iowa, to refer to the term “Apple Watch” over a six-month period from December 2018 to April 2019. The window came only after Apple’s unusual heart rhythm detection and the publication of a study tracking how well the window can detect the atrial tremor.
He found a record of 264 patients who stated that their Apple watches reflected the rhythm of the heart. Of that group, 41 explicitly mentioned receiving alerts from their watch (others may have alerts, but this was not specifically mentioned in their health records). Half of the patients already had a cardiac diagnosis, including 58 people who had previously been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. About two-thirds had symptoms, including lighthouse or chest pain.
The study found only 30 patients diagnosed with a heart after a visit to their doctors. According to the study, most of the heart monitor data were probably false positives. False positives, even if the patient becomes healthy, can still cause problems: they can cause patients to receive unnecessary health care and cause stress and anxiety. Even people who do not have symptoms, such as some in this study, may still feel the need to talk to a doctor about an unusual flag on a device such as the Apple Watch.
“It is hard for a user to ignore a warning that they may have a serious medical condition,” Kirk Wyatt, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Mayo Clinic and an author on the study, said in an email. The ledge.
Some of these trends are not new. Heaton said that over the years, doctors have seen patients in their offices after researching online medical conditions. However, smartwatches passively monitor people who are not necessarily looking for a diagnosis. And Apple isn’t the only company that treats its products as an abnormal heart rhythm to users: Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 3 has an EKG feature, as does Fitbit’s Sense smartwatch. While the percentage of people with an abnormal heart reading on one of these devices may be low (a study by Apple Watch found that less than 1 percent of users had an alert), millions use these products – so for now There may be thousands of additional people going to the doctor based on them.
Wyatt said such products “blur the line between rigid medical devices and wellness tools”. People do not understand how well they really do and what they really should be used for. For example, people who already have an atrial fibrillation diagnosis should not use the Apple Watch feature – but more than 20 percent of people in the Mayo Clinic study had already made the diagnosis. The facility should not be used by anyone under the age of 22, but about two dozen people with records in the study were below that cutoff.
Smartwatches may be useful ways for people to monitor their health at home, but it is still unclear what their utility might be. Most research conducted on the Apple Watch, for example, focuses on how well it can detect atrial fibrillation, but does not track whether it is actually screened in the context of the health care system Can be used as a tool. Without that information, doctors like Hayton worry that the devices may cause unnecessary confusion and stress for patients. “It is important to understand the context and nuances of the disease and at this point cannot be fully understood by wearable medical equipment,” she said.