A new study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) seems to suggest that proactive, life-saving heart monitoring can be performed with just about any heart-rate-enabled smartwatch and the Cardiogram Android app. The claim is not that it can necessarily pinpoint a specific disease but that it can accurately detect specific types of abnormal heart rhythms. Moreover, it can detect those with an accuracy of 97-percent. It goes without saying that whether or not the discoveries can survive the peer review process remains to be seen. However, they certainly seem to hint at a bright future for wearables in medical diagnosis and treatment moving forward.
The study itself could very well be the largest of its kind ever conducted. It took input from more than 9,750 Cardiogram users, feeding 139 million heart rate and step-count measurements into an A.I. called DeepHeart. Of those, 129 million heart rate measurements and 6,338 ECG readings were used to train the neural network to take raw data from smartwatches and detect possible problems. 51 cardioversion patients at UCSF made up the control group to ultimately show how accurate the measurements could feasibly be. Perhaps surprisingly, the 97-percent accuracy measured by the study is a higher rating than that attainable with the Apple Watch's FDA-cleared ECG accessory. That means that the average smartwatch with heart-rate monitoring enabled could ultimately become a viable tool for users who want more than just basic metrics about heart rate. That's not to say there are no challenges to overcome. The study primarily focused on patients who had a known history of heart rhythm abnormalities. Moreover, there is a high rate of dependence on users completing every part of their input into the study accurately – setting aside the regularity of measurements and inconsistencies that will present in real-world use. So there is more study needed to move things forward.
However, this actually marks the second possible major medical breakthrough discovered through the use of the Cardiogram-related DeepHeart A.I. Back in February, another research document from DeepHeart revealed that it may be possible to spot diabetes through the use of smartwatches and the app. There is plenty of promise to be found with these applications for smart wearables. In the meantime, the study – Passive Detection of Atrial Fibrillation Using a Commercially Available Smartwatch- was published in JAMA Cardiology on March 21. Smartwatch users interested in getting involved in these types of studies can check out Cardiogram via the Play Store button below.