What you need to know
- Apple Watch has already saved lives by detecting AFib.
- But Apple doesn't claim it to be perfect.
- A new report highlights how accurate it is at detecting an issue.
Apple Watch has a fleet of sensors to allow it to keep tabs on what our hearts are doing, with the ability to detect atrial fibrillation (AFib) being one of its big benefits. It's saved lives just by doing that, but it isn't perfect. Apple says as much itself, but a new report shows just how often Apple Watch may not detect AFib in wearers.
The reason for Apple Watch's limitations come down to its inability to detect AFib when the wearer's heart rate is higher than 120 beats per minute. So the question is whether that's an issue or not. And in as many as 59% of cases, it might just be.
A new Fortune Report mentions numerous studies that have looked into AFib patients and their heart rates. And while many instances will involve a heart rate below 120 beats per minute, many are likely to be considerably higher.
Things get worse when you take into account another study which suggests an Apple Watch detection accuracy of just 41%. As a result, 59% of cases would go undetected.
It's important to ensure perspective is maintained here, though. At no point has Apple suggested that Apple Watch has a 100% success rate when detecting anything, let alone AFib. And a 41% success rate is a better proposition than the 0% achieved by not wearing Apple Watch at all.
The upshot of all this? An Apple Watch wearer isn't guaranteed to be notified if something is a miss. Someone who doesn't wear one is guaranteed not to be notified.
And above all, consult your doctor if you're at all concerned about your health. They'll always be better placed to advise than any Apple Watch could be.
Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.
OK, so Apple watches aren't medical grade devices, shouldn't be used as such, and aren't advertised to be. Now, Android Wear, most FiBits, my Casio calculator watch, all miss AFib 100% of the time.
Is there any other device at the same size and price range as the Apple Watch, that detects AFib at a higher rate? I wouldn't imagine so, so I would think Apple are doing a pretty good job here. Like you said, this isn't advertised to be a medical grade device, I think the fact that it can detect AFib at all is pretty amazing
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