Apple Watch Series 4 unveiling draws thoughtful coverage

Rebecca Vesely

About Rebecca Vesely

Rebecca Vesely is AHCJ's topic leader on health information technology and a freelance writer. She has written about health, science and medicine for AFP, the Bay Area News Group, Modern Healthcare, Wired, Scientific American online and many other news outlets.

Health reporters provided rich context – and a dose of skepticism – around Apple’s introduction of the Apple Watch Series 4, which included an electrocardiogram (ECG) app and fall detection capabilities.

In case you missed it, the big news was that Apple received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance for its electrical heart rate sensor that can take an ECG using a new enabled app. The app can detect signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heartbeat that can lead to stroke, blood clots and other heart complications.

To detect a hard fall, the smartwatch uses an accelerometer, a gyroscope and algorithms. A fall alert on the device can be dismissed or used to initiate an emergency call. Immobility for 60 seconds after the alert without action also initiates a call to emergency services.

The Apple Watch Series 4 puts Apple at the forefront in the clinical health tracking space. Still, the smartwatch has a hefty price tag (starting at $399), and observers wondered if it could lead to unnecessary health care utilization by the worried well.

Kate Sheridan of Stat obtained a summary of the data that Apple submitted to the FDA as part of its clearance application. Sheridan asked a physician-scientist to interpret the findings and he suggested the smartwatch could produce false-positives. You can read her story here.

Jaimy Lee, news editor at LinkedIn (and my former Modern Healthcare colleague), asked four cardiologists for their perspectives on the Apple Watch features.  One noted that the health care system “is still learning how to best digest patient-generated data.” You can read Lee’s piece here.

Lauren Goode of Wired has a rundown of the Apple Watch Series 4 features and success of the smartwatch so far.

Edward C. Baig, tech columnist for USA Today, clearly explains how the Apple Watch features work and its implications in his article.

For the overall picture on big tech’s entry into health care in context of the Apple Watch announcement, see this piece by Bloomberg reporters Zachary Tracer, Spencer Soper, Gerrit De Vynck and Dina Bass.

The Apple Watch Series 4 is available Sept. 21.

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