Apple helps doctors study heart health with new Apple Watch app

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"These stories inspire us and we're determined to do more to help people understand their health", said Jeff Williams, Apple's chief operations officer.

Healthcare has been looking to mHealth and digital health devices - particularly wearables - for many years in an effort to detect AFib conditions earlier, a hard process given the lack of noticeable symptoms.

While Kardia has for years been focusing on getting their technology to the market and broadening awareness of its device in the afib population, Apple has also been in the background looking to see how they can expand their iPhone and Apple Watch products into the digital health market. Using software algorithms, the Apple Watch can isolate heart rhythms from other noise, and identify an irregular heart rhythm. Today, that product has finally launched in the US.

Anyone in the United States who has an Apple Watch Series 1 or later and is over the age of 21 is eligible to participate, and can do so by downloading a free app from the app store. Participants will also get a free consultation with a study doctor and an ECG patch for additional monitoring.

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- The Apple Heart Study uses an app created to notify participants if an irregular heart rhythm is observed. American Well is providing the telemedicine services.

Health and fitness have been a key focus for Apple, especially since it started selling the Watch two years ago.

"Through the Apple Heart Study, Stanford Medicine faculty will explore how technology like Apple Watch's heart rate sensor can help usher in a new era of proactive health care central to our Precision Health approach", Lloyd Minor, Dean of Stanford University School of Medicine, said in a statement.

This move takes Apple a step further, into actually using all that data to conduct its own medical research. Traditionally, researchers have had to seek out study participants directly - through medical facilities, by email or with fliers. In September Williams said that Apple worked closely with the FDA in developing the study. The research is a collaboration between Apple and Stanford University, and while it's being made widely available, it's important to emphasize this is about detecting heart rate abnormalities, but it won't officially diagnose. The app uses the Apple Watch to monitor the user's heart rate and alert them when they may be experiences atrial fibrillation, a leading cause of stroke. "Apple has announced they're working with a PPG sensor, which I think everybody is, and that's great".

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