Apple Watch Series 4 comes with a built-in electrocardiogram (ECG) that can detect heart rate abnormalities. It also comes with a number of legal disclaimers since Watch has only a single point of contact vs. a doctor’s office or hospital which could have a dozen or more. Yet, in tests, Watch is very accurate and already responsible for alerting customers to heart problems they didn’t know they had.
What could go wrong with such a useful feature in Apple Watch?
Is the Apple Watch Causing a Run on Emergency Rooms?
If it has then we probably would have heard about it by now, right?
New features are empowering patients like never before, but there’s a downside.
Uh huh. Sure. Why? Because Apple. Let’s toss in a little reductio ad absurdum into the mix. Thermometers are bad because they can be misread by the user. Seat belts are bad because you might become trapped in a wrecked car. Food is bad because it could cause health problems.
You see where this is going, right? Watch has features which are beneficial to the user, but…
The device contains a next-generation accelerometer and gyroscope combined with algorithms that can detect when the wearer has fallen. It can analyze wrist trajectory and impact acceleration, sending a notice to the user, which can then be dismissed or used to contact emergency services.
That means if you fall you could accidentally call 9-1-1 and if there is no emergency you might be fined. Bad Apple. You just know a lawsuit is waiting around the corner. What about the built-in ECG?
The wearer can touch the crown to activate the ECG, which can provide results within 30 seconds if it senses atrial fibrillation (AFib), a serious heart condition that can lead to strokes, blood clots, and heart attacks.
Yes, this has a downside because humanity.
Some doctors have reported hearing from patients in the middle of the night who were concerned about results they didn’t understand.
Uh huh. Details? How many? Where? What were the circumstances? Names named?
As usual, no specifics were given in the report but the built-in ECG function on Watch is very clear as to what is going on when it detects– or does not detect– an abnormal hearth rhythm. If there is no problem, Watch reports no problem. If there is a problem, Watch reports a problem. There is no middle ground, so the reason we haven’t heard of hospital emergency rooms being overrun with Apple Watch customers worried about their ECG readings is because it hasn’t happened. Yet.
This raises the potential that misreading the app or misunderstanding the findings of the ECG function will result in unnecessary and potentially expensive trips to the doctor’s office, urgent care, or emergency room for otherwise healthy users. It could also induce higher levels of anxiety for those who receive a correct diagnosis, particularly in those cases when the prescribed treatment is merely to keep an eye on the condition.
In other words, if you think you have a fever, don’t use a thermometer because the resulting temperature could be, 1) wrong, 2) misread, 3) lead to misdiagnosis.
Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.
Avoid the sensationalist headlines and dive right into the last paragraph or two to find the real value.
Apple’s further push into healthcare, as evidenced by the important health-related capabilities of the Apple Watch, could be a win-win for consumers and investors alike. As with any new technology, there will be an inevitable learning curve, but the potential for users to benefit is clear. This could also result in higher demand for the device, as consumers become empowered to take a greater interest in their own health, which would benefit Apple — and its shareholders.