Apple Watch Saves 30-Year-Old’s Life While Training for a UK Marathon

Apple Watch Series 4 Ecg

A U.K. man who was recently training for a marathon has become the latest person to credit an Apple Watch with helping to save their life.

Phil Harrison, 30, took to Reddit to “say thanks to Apple.” In his original post, Harrison gave an account of how the Apple Watch nudged him to see a doctor while he was training for the Brighton Marathon — and how the wearable may very well have helped save his life.

The 30-year-old said that, although he was aware of some health issues in the past, he thought he was the healthiest he had ever been while he was training.

But, in early April, Harrison said he started getting heart palpitations that didn’t appear to stop. He happened to have an Apple Watch Series 4, which sports a consumer-facing electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor.

When he opened up the ECG app and ran a test, the app sent him a warning that it detected signs of atrial fibrillation and advised him to seek immediate medical attention.

Harrison added that a “series of events” lead him to go to accident and emergency (A&E) services, where he was told that he should not run in the closely approaching marathon. Now, two and a half months later, Harrison said he is about to undergo an open heart valve repair surgery in early July.

While he made sure to thank the doctors and nurses that were integral in his treatment, he added that his Apple Watch ultimately motivated him to seek medical attention.

“But I do know that without my Series 4 watch just giving me a little kick to get to A&E I may not be here today,” Harrison wrote on Reddit. “I would have done everything to run that marathon which most likely would have killed me.”

The ECG feature was first launched on the Apple Watch Series 4, but it was initially only released in the U.S. Since then, Apple has been continually rolling out the feature to new countries. The ECG feature was only available in the UK for a week when Harrison said he used it.

In addition to the Reddit post, Harrison said he also sent an email to Tim Cook and Craig Federighi.

You can view a full list of where the ECG feature is available on Apple’s website.

Hospitals Giving Out Apple Watch to Aid Cancer Treatment

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When I first heard about the Apple Watch, I wasn’t sold. Now, after a massive commercial rollout and major word-of-mouth hype, I’m still skeptical. Even if the price (upwards of $349) weren’t an issue, you wouldn’t see me with the awkward-looking watch-phone hybrid around my wrist.

But the beauty of the market is that it makes room for consumers’ varying tastes and needs. For some, the Apple Watch is a stylish status symbol, and for others, it could even be an essential piece of medical equipment. King’s College Hospital in London has begun a pilot program that provides the watches to chemotherapy patients. A British medical company, Medopad, has been building apps designed to help cancer patients keep track of their medication usage.

“Patients forget to take the drugs or lose them. There are also many unnecessary visits to [emergency medical services] because doctors don’t have access to that information,” said the CEO of Medopad, Dr. Rich Khatib.

For patients, the design of the Apple Watch provides advantages over the typical smartphone. With the ability to wear the device on their wrist at all times, patients would be less likely to forget about using the apps provided. Additionally, patients dealing with illness, or loss of energy and strength, would benefit from the ease of access.

Not only are the Apple Watches convenient for patients and doctors, but also they could cut costs tremendously.

“After the treatment is over, another patient can use the Apple Watch so it could work out at £50 per patient. When you compare that to chemotherapy treatments and the fact that one pill could cost £1,000 per day, it’s worth it,” said Dan Vàhdat of Medopad.

It remains to be seen whether the pilot program will be effective, but the mere ideas behind the effort should get doctors, patients, and technology geeks excited. Smartphones, tablets, and other cutting-edge devices are often thought of as toys, providing mindless entertainment that replaces genuine human interaction. But these pieces of technology aren’t just for playing Candy Crush during math class; they increase our standard of living, facilitate improved communication, and can even save lives.

Read more at HIT Consultant, and watch our interview with James Currier on information management in health care.


Watching the Apple Watch

After Apple, Inc.’s high-profile entry into the marketplace in April 2015, most of us are now aware of “smart watch” technology.

Once the initial hype had dissipated, it seemed that only hard-core techies continued to tweet and blog about it … with one notable exception. Dan Diamond, executive editor of the Advisory Board Company’s “Daily Briefing” newsletter for healthcare executives, has been watching Apple Watch technology even before its official launch — and his observations are very enlightening.

Recent surveys show that more than 50% of consumers are interested in buying wearable technology such as fitness monitors and, like its competitors, the Apple Watch offers health apps:

  • Apple Health provides an easy-to-read dashboard of the wearer’s health and fitness data
  • Apple HealthKit synchronizes 22 health and fitness apps on the watch and, with the wearer’s permission, makes the device accessible to physicians, hospitals, technology developers, and others.

Last month, Apple was reportedly engaged in high-level talks about the possibility of the Cloud-based HealthKit becoming the health data hub for some of the nation’s leading hospitals.

For Diamond, the implications and value proposition for hospitals and physicians are unclear.

Although the technology sounds transformative, he cautions that physicians and hospitals don’t know how to use the data or if it has value to them; centralized data from health trackers (e.g., information on calorie counts and step taken) will not necessarily help physicians and accountable care organizations to manage their highest cost patients.

While Apple’s vision for HealthKit may come as no surprise, its ResearchKit has real potential for what some call “creative destruction” — a process through which something brings about the demise of whatever existed before.

Apple believes that this technology will change the way researchers identify participants for their clinical trials by allowing more than 700 million Apple users (worldwide) to “opt in” to clinical trials via their Apple Watches or iPhones.

In theory, ResearchKit will improve real-time, accurate data collection in clinical trials, and, because of users’ propensity for wearing their devices (or keeping them at arm’s reach) 24/7, Apple’s strategy might succeed.

Perhaps because of Apple’s iconic stature, many well-respected organizations have already been willing to experiment with ResearchKit; for instance:

  • When Apple announced five clinical trials last spring, there was record demand from potential participants — more than 7,000 in 6 hours, according to Sage Bionetworks.
  • Apple collaborated with the University of Rochester, Xuanwu Hospital, and Capital Medical University in a design incorporating ResearchKit in a Parkinson’s disease study.
  • Apple has created apps for: diabetes research in partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital; asthma research in partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College; cardiovascular disease research in partnership with Stanford University and the University of Oxford; and breast cancer in partnership with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, UCLA School of Public Health, and Penn Medicine.

Despite these pioneering collaborations, Diamond predicts that this technology will not become the industry standard any time soon for several reasons: HealthKit’s healthcare data model and measures lack sophistication; patients remain skeptical about pharmaceutical industry research; and, importantly, when “consumers” become “human subjects,” Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) issues must be addressed by ResearchKit developers.

The bottom line is that we in the healthcare industry should take note as this technology evolves — and watch the Apple Watch.

Tattoos Confuse Apple Watch .

Some Apple Watch users who have tattoos are running into problems when using the device’s heart-rate monitor and other features, as it appears the ink in tattoos can interfere with the watch’s sensors.

This week, one person noted on the website Reddit that the Apple Watch’s auto-lock would engage when it was placed over an arm tattoo, possibly indicating that the device was not registering that it was being worn.

Tattoos are perhaps the ultimate form of self expression. Once done, they’re basically with you for good. But does all that ink doom you to life of being judged? Some studies say yes! Anthony looks at what having a tattoo says about you.
 And the heart-rate monitor gives different readings when placed over tattooed and nontattooed skin, with very dark ink colors appearing to cause the most trouble, according to the website iMore.

The Apple Watch monitors heart rate in the same way as the Basis Peak, the Fitbit Surge and other wrist-worn fitness trackers — they all use a light that shines into the skin to measure pulse.

The light strikes the blood vessels in your wrist, and then sensors on the devices detect how much light is reflected back, which lets the devices detect the changes in blood volume that occur each time your heart beats, pushing blood through your body.

The Apple Watch has an LED light that flashes many times per second to detect your heartbeat, the company says.

However, changes to the skin, including permanent tattoos, can affect the heart-rate sensor’s performance, Apple says. “The ink, pattern and saturation of some tattoos can block light from the sensor, making it difficult to get reliable readings,” Apple’s support website states.

If users are experiencing issues with the heart-rate monitor because of tattoos or other factors not related to the device itself, they can use an external heart-rate monitor (such as a chest-strap monitor) and connect it to the Apple Watch via Bluetooth, the company says.

Not all wrist tattoos will interfere with the Apple Watch’s sensors — iMore found that lighter-colored tattoos did not disrupt readings as much as darker-colored tattoos, and that patterned tattoos did not appear to cause problems. The type and design of a person’s tattoo may determine whether he or she experiences problems with the device, according to iMore.

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