Doctors say consumers taking the Apple Watch too far

Dec. 21, 2018

CNBC reports when Apple introduced its electrocardiogram feature for the Apple Watch last month, it instantly gave millions of people unprecedented access to their health information.

The Apple Watch is the first mass-market product with an ECG, which lets consumers get a reading of their heart’s rhythm and potentially pick up on a type of arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation. That’s a big deal, but it also raises some concerns.

While the device gives people more control over their health and better data on their conditions is laudable, many doctors are worried about false positives. That is, the Apple Watch may be wrong in some cases, resulting in healthy people rushing unnecessarily to the emergency room. Check out the Twitter hashtag #cardiotwitter to see how that’s playing out.

“I love the idea of patients participating in their own health, and I’m not anti-Apple,” said Dr. Brian Kolski, a cardiologist in Orange County, California. “But I also don’t want to be pulled away from those who are actually sick.”

The flip side is that numerous studies have found that patients are becoming more informed than ever, whether it’s through symptom searching on Google or accessing an ECG reading through their Apple Watch. And that’s changing the culture of medicine.

When patients are armed with their own health data, the relationship with their doctor becomes less paternalistic. They’re no longer rendered childlike to an authority figure, who provides instructions during an annual visit on the steps they should take to manage their health.

Instead, consumers are turning to discussion forums like PatientsLikeMe, where engaged patients with serious medical conditions discuss their treatments, doctors and other aspects of their care. Some doctors are embracing that trend, as it allows medical experts to be more proactive with patients, helping to keep them healthy rather than just treating them when they get sick.

One fear among many physicians is that patients with data from sophisticated wearable devices will start to demand unnecessary tests and procedures, which can bring health risks and added costs to an already overburdened healthcare system.

They also take doctors away from patients who really need their help. Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist, recently pointed out that there are even cases when an Apple Watch will accurately detect atrial fibrillation on someone who doesn’t have any troubling symptoms. Such patients may rush to get screened even though there’s no evidence to suggest that they should, Topol said.

Even more troubling are the false negatives, or instances of atrial fibrillation that aren’t picked up by the Apple Watch. With millions of people potentially using the ECG, very small errors can mean thousands of patients getting inaccurate information, prompting them to experience too much anxiety, or not enough.

CNBC has the full article

Sponsored Recommendations

Enhancing Remote Radiology: How Zero Trust Access Revolutionizes Healthcare Connectivity

This content details how a cloud-enabled zero trust architecture ensures high performance, compliance, and scalability, overcoming the limitations of traditional VPN solutions...

Spotlight on Artificial Intelligence

Unlock the potential of AI in our latest series. Discover how AI is revolutionizing clinical decision support, improving workflow efficiency, and transforming medical documentation...

Beyond the VPN: Zero Trust Access for a Healthcare Hybrid Work Environment

This whitepaper explores how a cloud-enabled zero trust architecture ensures secure, least privileged access to applications, meeting regulatory requirements and enhancing user...

Enhancing Remote Radiology: How Zero Trust Access Revolutionizes Healthcare Connectivity

This content details how a cloud-enabled zero trust architecture ensures high performance, compliance, and scalability, overcoming the limitations of traditional VPN solutions...