Apple has started rolling out the watchOS 5.1.2 update for its Apple Watch, and this is an important, given it comes with the much talked about ECG feature for the Series 4 version.
The company announced its latest version of the Watch along with the iPhone XS series back in September, which promised a new electrocardiography (ECG) app and an app to detect irregular heart rhythm apps.
With watchOS 5.1.2 and iOS 12.1.1, Apple has started rolling out what will be a unique feature on the Watch Series 4. However, the ECG and irregular heart rhythm detection are only rolling out to the US. Keep in mind Apple needs to get clearance in every other country, where it plans to roll out the feature.
Right now Apple only has FDA clearance for its ECG and irregular heart rhythm app, which is why this is coming to the United States first. If the feature has to launch in India, it will be need regulatory approval here as well.
Apple says the ECG app will be “capable of generating an ECG similar to a single-lead electrocardiogram.” In a regular hospital, an ECG usually relies on 12-lead to conduct the test, so Apple’s solution is fairly simple.
Apple’s ECG feature works with the user placing their finger on the digital crown of Series 4 watch and after 30 seconds, it detects the heart rhythm. The digital crown has electrodes built-in for this.
The irregular heart rhythm app will be able to detect most cases of arrhythmia, where the heart rhythms are too fast or too slow. There’s a crystal electrode at the back of the watch to read the heart’s electrical impulses from the wearer’s wrist.
However, Apple Watch Series 4 is not a replacement for hospital tests for an ECG or a doctor’s prescribed test. Even if the watch does detect a problem with the heart rhythm, the final call have to be taken by a doctor after regular tests have been carried.
Based on the FDA clearance, Apple Watch Series 4 is a Class II device and needs “special labelling” and has to meet “mandatory performance standards.” The FDA clearance for Apple Watch Series 4 also notes that ECG feature is not meant for those under 22 years of age and for anyone with known arrhythmia or other heart-related problems.
The data showed by the Apple Watch is only meant for informational use, and the final diagnosis needs to come from a doctor.