ECG Functionality Comes to Apple Watch

Posted on December 6, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Apple Watch, Wearables with 6 Comments

Today, Apple released an ECG app for Apple Watch that allows users to perform a limited electrocardiogram test.

“The ECG app on Apple Watch Series 4 captures heart rhythm in a moment when customers experience symptoms like a rapid or skipped heartbeat and helping to provide critical data to physicians,” the Apple announcement notes. “The irregular rhythm notification feature on Apple Watch can now also occasionally check heart rhythms in the background and send a notification if an irregular heart rhythm that appears to be atrial fibrillation (AFib) is identified.”

Apple’s ECG app isn’t a “real” electrocardiogram, of course: It only uses a single sensor on the user’s wrist, where formal ECG tests utilize multiple electrodes in more viable locations. Those with heart issues can also take an even more elaborate test called an echocardiogram, which adds an ultrasound to view and record your heart and heart rhythms.

Whether the ECG app is effective remains to be seen. Apple is sure to trumpet every instance in which the app allegedly saves someone’s life. But there are concerns that the app will also trigger unnecessary doctor visits and expensive labs tests.

To that end, Apple says that it has received the De Novo classification for the ECG app from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which allows them to market it to consumers without a prescription. This means that the agency sees the ECG app as being of “low- to moderate-risk” to a user’s health.

The ECG app is available for free, but it requires an Apple Watch Series 4 and watchOS 5.1.2 or newer.


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Comments (6)

6 responses to “ECG Functionality Comes to Apple Watch”

  1. dcdevito

    Not an Apple fan, but I applaud this. We need stuff like this to push tech forward and make a real difference in people's lives.

    • Andrew Jackson

      In reply to dcdevito:

      100% agree.

      I too am not an Apple fan, but their focus on heart health is, for me, the one 'killer app' (pun intended) that keeps me on the platform. I feel that heart health is important to Apple, and that they are leading the field of 'wearable' heart monitoring. I wear an Apple Watch (S2, so sadly no ECG) and that keeps me locked in to owning an iPhone too. (But I still dream of owning a nice Android phone :-))

      I have used the AliveCor (aka Kardia) device which, I believe, works in much the same way to generate an ECG, and I can report that it was accurate and effective; it was able to detect both AFIB and SVT. Having the same functionality built into the Apple Watch is clearly much more convenient.

      Heck, it might even be enough of a reason to justify upgrading from my Series 2 to a Series 4.

      Yet more money to Cupertino!

      • wolters

        In reply to DrewTX:

        Same. Not crazy about Apple but this is nice.

        I use a Galaxy Watch on my Pixel 3 XL because it is as close to functionality of an Apple Watch that I may ever get without moving to Apple. It tracks my health and heart rate just fine for me, though I'd like alerts if it gets too high, especially at rest. The Galaxy Watch is amazing if for the 3-4 day battery life alone...

  2. Jeffery Commaroto

    As an example a friend of mine was put on a medication that made her heart start racing amongst other side effects. The doctors did an ECG and other tests but just shrugged it off as, “Yeah the literature says their could be side effects, what can you do?”

    She bought an Apple Watch, started recording heart rate independently and also recorded the symptoms etc. Took all the data to the doctors to show it wasn’t some random occasional issue and plead the case for trying something else. They protested a bit but switched her to a different medicine she independently read about and asked for. Sure enough all the side effects went away and heart rate returned to normal.

    This kind of tech and access to our medical records mixed with the ability to message doctors and nurses directly is so important and impactful. Perfect? No, but important.

  3. provision l-3

    It has two electrodes. From the article you linked:

    "New electrodes built into the back crystal and Digital Crown on Apple Watch Series 4 work together with the ECG app to enable customers to take an ECG"

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