In 2017 Apple and Stanford University launched a major initiative of more than 400,000 individuals to study whether a mobile app using data from a heart-rate pulse sensor on the Apple Watch can identify atrial fibrillation. This condition, usually a precursor to more dangerous cardiovascular conditions, often remains hidden because many individuals don’t experience any symptoms.
Stanford News recently published the results of the recently completed study. They included:
- Overall, only .5% of participants received irregular pulse notifications, an important finding given concerns about potential over-notification
- Comparisons between irregular pulse-detection on Apple Watch and simultaneous electrocardiology patch recordings showed the pulse detection algorithm (indicating a positive tachogram reading) has a 71% positive predictive value. 84% of the time, participants who received irregular pulse notifications were found to be in atrial fibrillation at the time of notification
- 34% of the participants who received irregular pulse notifications and followed up by using an ECG patch over a week later found to have atrial fibrillation. Since atrial fibrillation is an intermittent condition, it is not surprising for it to go undetected in subsequent ECG patch monitoring.
- 57% of those who received irregular pulse notifications sought medical attention
This study demonstrates the power of digital health—namely in this case, the possibilities to collect important health data to evidence to all new ways to take on and manage deadly diseases. According to Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of Stanford School of Medicine, “the results of the Apple Heart Study highlight the potential role that innovative digital technology can play in creating more predictive and preventive outcomes.”
Mintu Turakhia, MD, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine
Marco Perez, MD, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine
Kenneth Mahaffrey, MD professor of cardiovascular medicine, Study Chair