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Fitness wearables will soon diagnose by design, not by chance

Fitness wearables will soon diagnose by design, not by chance
From Engadget - September 15, 2017

At this week's event, Apple teased something called Heart Study, which launches later this year. With the help of Stanford Medicine and the FDA, Heart Study will use Apple Watch data to detect irregularities in heart rhythms, including potentially serious conditions like atrial fibrillation. Details on how Heart Study will work or look are sparse at the moment, but it appears Apple's device will keep an eye out for, and actively flag, irregularities in your pulse. That's different from existing systems that simply chart your performance and do not alert you to anomalies.

Of course, there are good reasons other companies have not implemented something like this. Just as trying to diagnose yourself via Google or WebMD could scare you into thinking you have cancer, having your fitness tracker alert you to every little pulse variation could lead to undue paranoia, if not severe hypochondria. Plus, coming up with accurate algorithms that can detect and differentiate between an actual pause in your heart rate versus, say, a temporary loss of contact between the sensors and your skin is tricky. But companies are already trying.

Fitbit, for example, is working on using the blood oxygen monitor on its new Ionic smartwatch to study and detect sleep apnea -- a potentially serious disorder where a person randomly stops (and starts) breathing. Fitbit has not rolled out this capability yet, so for now the hardware does not do anything.

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