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What Cardiologists Think About the Apple Watch’s Heart-Tracking Feature

An anonymous reader quotes a report from SFGate: The newest Apple Watch can now flag potential problems with your heartbeat — a feature that’s been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration and that Apple is marking as a major achievement. But some doctors said that including heart-monitoring tools in such a popular consumer product could prompt unnecessary anxiety and medical visits. Physicians say the watch could be good for patients who have irregular heart rhythms but may not realize it. Some people who have atrial fibrillation, the condition for which the watch is screening, don’t always have noticeable symptoms. In an ideal situation, someone who doesn’t know they have a problem could get a warning from their watch and take that data to their doctor.

But there is also concern that widespread use of electrocardiograms without an equally broad education initiative could burden an already taxed health-care system. Heart rhythms naturally vary, meaning that it’s likely that Apple Watch or any heart monitor could signal a problem when there isn’t one — and send someone running to the doctor for no reason. “People are scared; their heart scares them,” John Mandrola, a cardiologist at Baptist Health in Louisville, said. “That leads to more interaction with the health-care system.” An extra visit to your doctor may not sound like a bad thing, but Mandrola said it would potentially lead to another round of tests or even unnecessary treatment if there are other signs that can be misinterpreted. And doctors might wind up facing a crowd of anxious Apple Watch users getting false signals — something physicians have already had to deal with as fitness trackers that monitor heart rates have become popular.

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