For the first time, “life-saving” health features have been released to the users of the Apple Watch 4 in the United Kingdom. The new features will allow the users to monitor their heart health in just a press of a button.
The tools are being introduced across Europe after securing regulatory approval. They are considered part of the wider plans of the tech giant to provide healthcare services in an attempt to offset the declining iPhone sales.
One of the features that were first released in the United States in 2018 makes use of in-built sensors in the Watch to perform an electrocardiogram (ECG) scan on the wrist of a user. This can be activated by touching the crown of the watch for approximately 30 seconds.
The ECG monitors the strength and timing of electric signals from heartbeats, allowing the users to be notified regarding any irregular patterns that are linked to conditions such as atrial fibrillation, a leading cause of strokes.
Atrial fibrillation affects approximately 1.5 million people in the United Kingdom, costing around £2.2 billion every year.
The heart monitor of the watch can also be used to passively check for an irregular heartbeat. If one is detected, a notification will be sent to the user.
The smartwatch can be utilised to generate a heart health record from the ECG scan that a user can easily download and share with their GP.
Apple said that the ECG and heart monitoring functions had been CE marked so it means that it passed the standards of the European Union for health and safety in medical devices and their health functions can be fully activated.
Sumbul Desai, the vice president of health of Apple, stated: “With the ECG app and irregular rhythm notification feature, customers can now better understand aspects of their heart health in a more meaningful way.”
The ECG scanner is considered as a major feature of the revamped Apple Watch Series 4 of the tech giant which was released in September 2018. The feature first gained approval from the Food and Drug Administration of the United States and is now being launched in the United Kingdom and 18 other countries in Europe.
A study that was funded by Apple with more than 400,000 participants in total notified 2,000 users regarding irregular heart patterns, a third of whom were discovered to have atrial fibrillation.
Meanwhile, its ECG app demonstrated 98.3 percent accuracy in correctly detecting atrial fibrillation.
However, some doctors have released a warning that the presence of the health-testing function on smartwatches of Apple could lead to more “false positives,” or incorrect diagnosis of heart problems.
Jeff Williams, the chief operating officer of Apple, stated: “With the release of these heart features, Apple Watch takes the next step in empowering people with more information about their health.”
A professor of Cardiology at Imperial College London, Martin Cowie, said that the new features could provide a “powerful tool” for detecting heart rhythm problems early.