The most talked about feature in the Apple Watch Series 4 was its ability to allow users to get an electrocardiogram (ECG) directly from their wrist. Though available in the US and other locations, India is yet to get the feature. But Apple is working with regulators to introduce the ECG feature to Apple Watch Series 4 watches in India.
In an interview with indianexpress.com, Dr. Sumbul Desai, Apple’s VP of Health reveals the company has been working “really hard” to bring the ECG feature to the Indian market. “There are no challenges per se. There is a process.”
She explains: ”When you bring medical software to any country, there are regulatory compliance issues that you need to fulfill. But then there’s also a responsibility that every medical software device company is responsible for, which is making sure the customer has the ability to contact somebody if they have questions. So in order to do it thoughtfully, we have a number of things that we need to put in place.”
Since its first launch in 2015, the Cupertino-based tech giant has turned the Apple Watch into a fitness and health device. The latest Apple Watch Series 4 further pushes Apple’s ambitions into consumer health care as it features a built-in ECG monitor. It’s the first wearable with a built-in ECG monitor and the feature has been cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so it can be used as a medical device in the United States of America.
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of deaths globally. In 2016, an estimated 17.9 million people died from CVD, accounting for 31 per cent of global deaths, of which 85 per cent were due to heart attack and stroke.
An ECG test can help in early detection of a variety of heart-related issues. Doctors often recommend heart patients to conduct an ECG test done periodically as it helps them to monitor the patient’s heart health closely.
Although the Apple Watch Series 4 uses a single-lead ECG (it’s not the same as 12-lead ECG performed in hospitals), the wearable can help in identifying atrial fibrillation, a common form of an irregular heart rhythm. It takes only 30 seconds to verify whether you have normal or irregular rhythms. The data, which tells the user if there are signs of atrial fibrillation (A-fib) indicating a heart condition, are stored in the Health App of the iPhone and can be shared with a doctor as a PDF for examination.
Experts believe that elderly or someone with a family history of cardiovascular disease can greatly benefit from the ECG feature on the Apple Watch Series 4. Given that you wear the Apple Watch most of the times, the wearable can detect an early sign of a stroke or flag heart irregularities. The idea here is to detect an early heart symptom and consult a cardiologist before it gets too late.
People above 65 are likely to be the segment that Apple should cater to with the Apple Watch Series 4, as they are the one who will be taking heart readings and detecting falls. But Dr. Desai says the Apple does not make a distinction between young or old when it designs a product. “We look at it as this is a device [Apple Watch] for everyone. So whether you’re young or older, we think everyone should be focused on their health,” she says.
“Adding features like ECG and fall detection are an excellent move for Apple, as it expands its user base beyond early adopters to broader demographics like seniors,” said Bryan Ma, vice president for devices research at IDC. “It moves past being a novelty gadget and instead focuses on use cases that can literally save lives.”