Study puts wear­able de­vices to fit­ness test

The Courier-Mail - - NEWS -

SMARTWATCHES are trans­form­ing into full-blown med­i­cal de­vices ca­pa­ble of not only flag­ging sleep prob­lems and mon­i­tor­ing heart rhythms but as­sess­ing fit­ness lev­els and help­ing women fall preg­nant.

But a world-first study into the de­vices, based in Aus­tralia, is be­ing launched to test whether wear­able tech­nol­ogy re­ally can save lives, and whether doc­tors should be pre­scrib­ing Fit­bits and Ap­ple Watches along with healthy di­ets and ex­er­cise.

Syd­ney’s West­mead Pri­vate Hos­pi­tal as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor Sau­rabh Ku­mar, who will con­duct the re­search, said smart­watch wear­ers were al­ready ap­proach­ing doc­tors based on heart-rate in­for­ma­tion col­lected from the tech­nol­ogy, and car­di­ol­o­gists needed to know just how ac­cu­rate the read­ings were.

“A lot of pa­tients do go to GPs hav­ing no symp­toms, but their wear­able de­vice has prompted them to see a doc­tor,” he said. “We need to sys­tem­at­i­cally ... de­ter­mine whether they are ca­pa­ble of de­tect­ing changes in heart rate and com­mon car­diac rhythm prob­lems.”

Ad­vanced health fea­tures in the lat­est gen­er­a­tion of smartwatches in­clude a yet-tobe-re­leased elec­tro­car­dio­gram mon­i­tor in the Ap­ple Watch 4, stress as­sess­ments by Sam­sung’s Gal­axy Watch, and the abil­ity to track women’s re­pro­duc­tive cy­cles by the Fit­bit Versa Smart­watch.

The in­for­ma­tion could alert doc­tors to health prob­lems in­clud­ing sleep ap­noea, meta­bolic dis­or­ders, or atrial fib­ril­la­tion – an ir­reg­u­lar heart rhythm – which is a ma­jor cause of strokes.

Dr Ku­mar said ini­tial study find­ings could be avail­able next year, but the re­search was likely to con­tinue “as car­di­ol­o­gists try to work out what role this tech­nol­ogy will play in the health­care sys­tem”.

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