Apple's Latest Watch Receives FDA Approval For ECG Functionality

Knobbe Martens
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Knobbe Martens

Since its first release in 2015, the Apple Watch has continued to evolve and incorporate more health- and fitness-tracking capabilities. The latest version of Apple’s Watch—Series 4—features a larger display screen, thinner case, a new interface, and, according to Apple “revolutionary health capabilities.” These health capabilities include electrocardiogram (ECG) functionality, which has been granted approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Also incorporated into the latest version of the Watch, according to Apple, are a new accelerometer and gyroscope that allow for fall detection.

Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, stated:

The completely redesigned Apple Watch Series 4 continues to be an indispensable communication and fitness companion, and now with the addition of groundbreaking features, like fall detection and the first-ever ECG app offered directly to consumers, it also becomes an intelligent guardian for your health.

Apple notes that its Series 4 Watch allows wearers to place their finger on a dial for 30 seconds and receive a heart rhythm classification, which can identify if the wearers’ heartbeat is following a normal or irregular pattern. Irregular heart beat patterns, often referred to as Atrial fibrillation, increase the risk of heart complications. Recordings of such heart rhythm information are stored in a Health app and can be shared with physicians via a PDF file.

Some commentators believe the fall detection capabilities of Apple’s Series 4 Watch may prove significantly valuable, especially for elderly wearers. The Series 4 Watch is said to incorporate a new accelerometer and gyroscope which measure up to 32 g-forces and utilizes “custom algorithms to identify when hard falls occur.” The Watch also analyzes trajectory of the wearer’s wrist and the impact of accelerations, and sends an alert to the wearer after a fall event. Such alert can be dismissed or used by the wearer to make an emergency call to a healthcare provider. According to Apple, if the Watch senses a lack of movement for one minute after the alert notification, an automatic emergency call is made and a message is sent to emergency contacts along with location data.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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