Every now and then, we come across reports about the Apple Watch saving someone’s life, with advanced heart-related capabilities such as ECG receiving a lot of praise lately for helping detect conditions such as Atrial fibrillation (AFib). While Apple still suggests relying on approved medical devices for more accurate prognosis and diagnosis, a new study by Stanford University researchers concludes that the Apple Watch can be used as a reliable telemedicine solution for detecting cardiovascular diseases.
Titled ‘Activity data from wearables as an indicator of functional capacity in patients with cardiovascular disease,’ the study saw participants using an Apple Watch Series 3 and iPhone 7 running the VascTrac app over the course of 6 months. The participants, all 110 of whom were scheduled for vascular or cardiac procedures, were guided remotely to perform weekly at-home 6MWTs (6-minute walk test) via the VascTrac app, while the two devices collected data such as daily step counts.
“In this longitudinal observational study, passive activity data acquired by an iPhone and Apple Watch were an accurate predictor of in-clinic 6MWT performance. This finding suggests that frailty and functional capacity could be monitored and evaluated remotely in patients with cardiovascular disease, enabling safer and higher resolution monitoring of patients.”
The research paper also mentions that ‘smart device-based measurements, including both a 6MWT and passively collected activity data, provide clinically accurate and meaningful insights about functional capacity in patients with CVD (cardiovascular disease).’ During the test, the iPhone and Apple Watch were found to be capable of accurately analyzing ‘frailty’ with a sensitivity of 90%. The paper goes on to add that passive data collected at home was almost as accurate at predicting frailty – and thereby the risk of heart diseases – as was a home-based 6MWT.
“Our results show that passively collected data is almost as predictive as a home-based 6MWT at predicting traditional, clinic-based 6MWT results (AUC 0.643),” concludes the research. It goes on to add that data collected using devices like the Apple smartwatch can provide clinically meaningful and actionable insights in patients with CVD.
The key goal of the Stanford study was to show that wearable devices such as an Apple Watch and smartphones can be used to collect health data that can be clinically reliable. This is of critical importance, especially in these times when medical facilities and healthcare professionals are under extreme stress, and restrictions on free movement have made accessing medical facilities and appointments even more difficult.