Apple Set to Measure Heart Health in UHN Study

Researchers will determine whether heart patients can use the Apple Watch to perform clinical assessments at home.

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Need to Know

  • The University Health Network study will investigate whether the Apple Watch can provide early warnings about potentially worsening heart health.
  • Using the Apple Watch Series 6, doctors will monitor health indicators including heart rate, blood oxygen, general activity levels, and overall performance during a six-minute walk test.
  • Researchers will compare this data to measurements taken from clinical tests currently used by physicians to identify correlations.

Analysis

Researchers at the University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto are investigating whether the Apple Watch can be used to alert patients and doctors to worsening heart health.

In a new project led by UHN’s Dr. Heather Ross, researchers will collect health data from the Apple Watch Series 6, being worn by up to 200 patients, aged between 25 and 90. Health data collected from the watch will include heart rate, blood oxygen, general activity levels, and overall performance during a six-minute walk test. Researchers will compare data from the Apple Watch with information routinely collected by physicians to monitor the recovery of heart failure patients.

The hope is that the researchers will identify correlations between the two data sets, in order to leverage the Apple Watch as a tool that patients can use to perform traditionally clinic-based assessments at home.

“We think that biometric data derived from Apple Watch may provide comparable, precise, and accurate measurements of fitness, prognostic markers and early warning signals, compared to traditional diagnostics,” Dr. Ross, said. “My goal is to make high-quality care, accessible to everyone, no matter where they are. If we can use wearable technology to accurately monitor for essential diagnostics, we can reach all kinds of people, including vulnerable communities who traditionally have been challenged by issues of remote geography or homelessness.”     

Dr. Sumbul Desai, Apple’s vice president of Health, said that she and her team are “continually humbled” by the healthcare implications of the Apple Watch. “We’re thrilled to be collaborating with UHN and Dr. Heather Ross to better understand how the powerful sensors in Apple Watch can potentially help patients better manage heart failure, from the comfort of their own home,” she added.

The UHN partnership is not the first time in recent months that the Apple Watch’s extensive capabilities as a health data-gathering tool have been leveraged by healthcare institutions and hospitals. In September, the government of Singapore launched a health program, LumiHealth, designed specifically for the Apple Watch. The program offers a personalized health program to users who download it, including activity coaching and incentives to work out that include cash rewards. The partnership marks the first time Apple has teamed up with a country on a product.

In addition, Apple’s Health Records, which combine medical records from physicians and hospitals with existing Health app data, was made available in the U.K. and Canada in October, after launching in the US in 2018. Health Records is currently supported by more than 500 institutions across more than 11,000 care locations in the United States, in October, it was made available at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in the U.K.; and Women’s College Hospital, St. Joseph’s Healthcare, and Mackenzie Health in Canada.

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