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.