The heart monitoring feature on the Apple Watch may lead to unnecessary health care visits, according to a new study published this week. The Verge reports: Only around 10 percent of people who saw a doctor at the Mayo Clinic after noticing an abnormal pulse reading on their watch were eventually diagnosed with a cardiac condition. The finding shows that at-home health monitoring devices can lead to over-utilization of the health care system, said study author Heather Heaton, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, in an email to The Verge. That may be expensive for patients and for the system as a whole, and it may take up doctor and patient time unnecessarily.
Heaton and the study team scanned patient health records at every Mayo Clinic site, including offices in Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin, and Iowa, for mentions of the term “Apple Watch” over a six-month period from December 2018 to April 2019. The window came just after Apple introduced a feature to detect abnormal heart rhythms and after publication of a study tracking how well the watches could detect atrial fibrillation. They found records of 264 patients who said their Apple Watches flagged a concerning heart rhythm. Of that group, 41 explicitly mentioned getting an alert from their watch (others may have had an alert, but it wasn’t mentioned specifically in their health record). Half of the patients already had a cardiac diagnosis, including 58 who’d been previously diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. About two-thirds had symptoms, including lightheadedness or chest pain. Only 30 patients in the study got a cardiac diagnosis after their doctors visit. Most of the concerning heart monitor data, then, were probably false positives, the study concluded.
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