Mobile technologies such as the iWatch are now fitted with high-quality sensors that can measure and detect clinical changes in our bodies in entirely new and insightful ways. For example, Stanford Medicine and Apple have enrolled more than 400,000 participants in a study to see if the Apple Watch can identify irregular heart rhythms suggestive of atrial fibrillation.
Researchers at Stanford Medicine, in collaboration with Apple, launched the Apple Heart Study last November to determine whether a mobile app that uses the optical sensor on the Apple Watch to analyze pulse rate data can identify atrial fibrillation. The condition, which is characterized by an irregular heartbeat, often remains hidden because many people don’t experience symptoms. Atrial fibrillation can increase the risk of stroke and heart failure.
A paper describing the design of this unique clinical trial, the largest screening study on atrial fibrillation ever done, was published online Nov. 1 in the American Heart Journal. Enrollment, which was conducted through an iPhone app, is now closed.
The advantage of the app that uses the optical sensor is that it can check for an irregular pulse multiple times throughout the day in the background, without needing the user to actively engage the application.