Is that a life­saver on your arm?


SMARTWATCHES are trans­form­ing into full-blown med­i­cal de­vices ca­pa­ble of do­ing ev­ery­thing from as­sess­ing fit­ness lev­els and flag­ging sleep prob­lems to mon­i­tor­ing heart rhythms and help­ing users to 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 if 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 af­ter be­ing awarded a CSANZ-Bayer Young In­ves­ti­ga­tor Grant, said smart­watch wear­ers were al­ready ap­proach­ing doc­tors based on heart-rate in­for- ma­tion col­lected from the tech­nol­ogy, and car­di­ol­o­gists needed to know how re­li­able their 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.

“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 smart- watches in­clude a yet-to-be-re­leased elec­tro­car­dio­gram mon­i­tor in the Ap­ple Watch 4, stress as­sess­ments in­side Sam­sung’s Galaxy Watch, and the abil­ity to track your heart rate, deep and light sleep cy­cles, and even women’s re­pro­duc­tive cy­cles with the Fit­bit Versa smart­watch.

Fit­bit Asia Pa­cific Health So­lu­tions di­rec­tor John Gill­man said the com­pany’s fit­ness track­ers were de­signed to help users man­age their own health, rather than re­place a doc­tor, but it launched a new pro­gram called Fit­bit Care this month of­fer­ing coach­ing and dis­ease pre­ven­tion for health in­sur­ance com­pa­nies and employers.

“It is mov­ing into a new space for us and al­low­ing peo­ple to man­age very sig­nif­i­cant health is­sues — it will help peo­ple deal with a range of health con­di­tions such as di­a­betes and hy­per­ten­sion,” he said.

Dr Ku­mar said ini­tial find­ings from the study could be avail­able next year. Get a fit­bit when you subscribe. See page 32 or call 1800 134 152. Fit­bit Versa + 12 month dig­i­tal sub­scrip­tion. Only $7.50 a week for the first 12 months. Min. Cost $390. Con­di­tions ap­ply.

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