Smart­watch life­savers?

Wear­able de­vices un­der mi­cro­scope

Herald Sun - - NEWS - JEN­NIFER DUDLEYNICHOLSON jen­nifer.dud­ley@news.com.au

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

A world-first Aus­tralian study into the de­vices will test if wear­able tech­nol­ogy re­ally can save lives, and if doc­tors should be pre­scrib­ing Fit­bits and Ap­ple Watches along with healthy di­ets and ex­er­cise.

As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor Sau­rabh Ku­mar will con­duct the re­search af­ter be­ing awarded a CSANZ-Bayer Young In­ves­ti­ga­tor Grant.

He said smart­watch wear­ers were al­ready ap­proach­ing doc­tors based on heart-rate in­for­ma­tion col­lected from the tech­nol­ogy, and car­di­ol­o­gists needed to know just how ac­cu­rate and re­li­able read­ings were. “A lot of pa­tients do go to GPs hav­ing no symp­toms but their wear­able de­vice has prompted them to see a doc­tor,” said Prof Ku­mar, of Syd­ney’s West­mead Pri­vate Hos­pi­tal.

“There are also iso­lated re­ports of peo­ple be­ing di­ag­nosed with heart con­di­tions on the ba­sis of high heart rates.

“Given the re­cent ex­plo­sion in wear­able de­vices, we need to sys­tem­at­i­cally and sci­en­tif­i­cally eval­u­ate these de­vices against a gold stan­dard and 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-to-bere­leased elec­tro­car­dio­gram mon­i­tor in the Ap­ple Watch 4, stress as­sess­ments in­side Sam­sung’s Gal­axy Watch, and the abil­ity to track heart rate, sleep cy­cles, and even re­pro­duc­tive cy­cles with the Fit­bit Versa smart­watch. The in­for­ma­tion col­lected from these de­vices could tip off doc­tors to health prob­lems in­clud­ing sleep ap­noea, meta­bolic dis­or­ders or atrial fib­ril­la­tion — an ir­reg­u­lar heart rhythm that is a ma­jor cause of strokes in Aus­tralia. Fit­bit Asia-Pa­cific Health Solutions di­rec­tor John Gill­man said its fit­ness track­ers were de­signed to help users man­age their own health rather than re­place a doc­tor. But its new Fit­bit Care pro­gram, just launched, of­fer­ing coach­ing and dis­ease preven­tion for health in­sur­ers and em­ploy­ers.

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