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Apple Watch can detect irregular heartbeat, study finds

Hasan Chowdhury
Apple Watch - AP

The Apple Watch is able to detect irregular patterns in a person’s heartbeat, according to a new study, in a boost for the company’s ambitions to deploy wearable technology in the healthcare industry.

Researchers leading the study, which was funded by Apple and involved over 400,000 Apple Watch users, looked to screen and detect atrial fibrillation - a common form of irregular heartbeat.

Around 2000 participants received notifications from their smartwatches of an irregular heart beat. Researchers then sent an electrocardiography (ECG) patch to those notified for further detection of abnormal heart patterns.

A third of the 2000 patients were eventually confirmed to have atrial fibrillation.

The results presented at the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans are a positive sign for Apple in its push to introduce wearable technology across the healthcare sector.

The Silicon Valley company first offered an ECG service on its Apple Watch Series 4 last year.

But doctors have previously expressed concerns about the accuracy of the technology and have urged its use to be in tandem with proper consultation.

According to the NHS, atrial fibrillation affects around 1m people in the UK and can affect adults of any age. Researchers concluded the study’s data could be used as an additional tool by doctors diagnosing patients.

“The physician can use the information from the study, combine it with their assessment.... And then guide clinical decisions around what to do with an alert,” said Stanford University’s Dr Marco Perez, a lead investigator on the study.