Apple, in partnership with Stanford Medicine, has officially launched the ResearchKit-based Apple Heart Study app, saying it is a first-of-its-kind research study using Apple Watch's heart rate sensor to collect data on irregular heart rhythms and notify users who may be experiencing atrial fibrillation (AFib).
AFib is the leading cause of stroke, responsible for approximately 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations in the US every year. Many people don't experience symptoms, so AFib often goes undiagnosed.
Apple uses the Watch's built-in heart rate sensor to detect the amount of blood flowing through the wrist. From there, heart rhythms get isolated from other noise and are processed to identify an irregular heart rhythm.
"Every week we receive incredible customer letters about how Apple Watch has affected their lives, including learning that they have AFib. These stories inspire us and we're determined to do more to help people understand their health," Jeff Williams, Apple's COO, said in a statement. "Working alongside the medical community, not only can we inform people of certain health conditions, we also hope to advance discoveries in heart science."
If/when an irregular heart rhythm is identified, participants will receive a notification on their Apple Watch and iPhone, along with a free consultation with a study doctor and an electrocardiogram (ECG) patch for additional monitoring. The Apple Heart Study app is available in the US App Store to customers who are 22 years or older and have an Apple Watch Series 1 or later.
"Through the Apple Heart Study, Stanford Medicine faculty will explore how technology like Apple Watch's heart rate sensor can help usher in a new era of proactive health care central to our Precision Health approach," Lloyd Minor, Dean of Stanford University School of Medicine, noted in the statement. "We're excited to work with Apple on this breakthrough heart study."