The news: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a National Institutes of Health division, awarded nearly $37 million to Northwestern University and John Hopkins University to study if an Apple Watch app can help prevent strokes.
How it works: In the Rhythm Evaluation for AntiCoagulaTion (REACT-AF) trial, patients with AFib will use an Apple Watch and a corresponding app on the iPhone to try to cut down on unnecessary use of blood thinners, which reduce the risk of blood clots or strokes but are costly. Apple will guide the study and aid researchers in developing an algorithm.
Patients with no symptoms of AFib will use the Apple Watch to monitor heart activity. The watch notifies patients when they experience an episode. In the event of a high-risk portion of the episode, patients will take blood-thinning medication.
Why it matters: The study could ensure patients only take blood thinner medication when they’re at a high risk of stroke.
Trendspotting: Since 2020 the Apple Watch has offered an FDA-cleared feature that regularly checks a user’s heart rhythm in the background for signs of AFib. However, the Apple Watch isn’t the only device that can detect AFib.
Watching for accuracy: A consumer device like the Apple Watch can reach more consumers than implantable devices that detect the need for blood thinners. That’s because implantable devices are more expensive and require a lot of infrastructure. But Apple must prove that the watch’s algorithm can accurately detect irregular heart rhythms.
Physicians are hesitant to review data from patients’ wearable devices.
US adults have also been slow to adopt smartwatches—higher adoption of smartwatches and more acceptance of the data will be needed for studies like this one to have an impact.
Go deeper: Check out our report Digital Doctors 2022 for more on physicians’ attitudes toward technology.
What’s next? On September 7, Apple is expected to release the eighth version of its Apple Watch, per CNBC. Bloomberg reports that the new watch will include a body temperature sensor.
We’re awaiting confirmation on digital health features in the latest Apple Watch iteration. With more health features officially added to the Apple Watch, adoption for health and fitness purposes and physician acceptance could increase.
This article originally appeared in Insider Intelligence's Digital Health Briefing—a daily recap of top stories reshaping the healthcare industry. Subscribe to have more hard-hitting takeaways delivered to your inbox daily.
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