Apple invention turns Apple Watch into urgent care alert system

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2016
A patent application published Thursday suggests Apple is working to turn Apple Watch into a full-fledged medical device, one that can monitor a user's vital signs and automatically send out an alert should they need urgent care.


Source: USPTO


As published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's application for "Care event detection and alerts" provides for a hardware system capable of monitoring its surrounding environment for so-called "care events," described as any event that necessitates assistance from medical personnel, police, fire rescue or other emergency technicians. For example, the device could be programmed to monitor a user's heart for an arrhythmia and, upon detection, send out an alert to family or emergency responders.

While not specifically mentioned in the document, Apple Watch is uniquely qualified to fulfill the proposed system's goals. Apple's wearable not only incorporates advanced sensors and processing hardware capable of monitoring for care events, but also packs in a communications suite that can be used to transmit emergency notifications via iPhone.

In operation, the wearable and its host device work together to detect a care event. For example, if an iPhone's accelerometer detects a sudden change in acceleration, while Apple Watch no longer detects a heart rate, the system might determine that a user has had a heart attack and is incapacitated. Other examples include car accidents, muggings and other events that can be quantified by onboard accelerometer, heart rate, microphone, GPS and other sensors.

Once a care event is detected, the system sends out alerts to a predefined list of recipients, dubbed the "care list" or "care circle." Established by the user, or as a phone preset, the care list contains contact information for family members, doctors and general emergency services.




Apple points out that the system needs fine tuning to avoid false alarms. To hedge against system errors, the invention includes a method of triage that escalates notifications based on severity before sending them out to recipients on the care list, itself split into a distinct hierarchy. For example, a user's spouse or family might populate the first level on the care list and will therefore get the initial alert. In some cases emergency services contacts sit at the highest level and are only notified if the situation escalates or all lower level list recipients fail to respond.

Some embodiments call for customized alerts that contain a user's relevant medical records (gathered from the Health app or an offsite database), location and other important information. In some cases users -- if lucid -- can manually dictate what information is disseminated through onscreen cues.

Apple has yet to position Apple Watch as a bonafide medical device, most likely due to that industry's tight regulations. Indeed, rumors last year claimed the company scrapped plans to integrate advanced health monitoring features into Watch due in part to regulatory hurdles.

While today's patent application is evidence that Apple is continuing work on medical applications for the Apple Watch platform, it remains unclear when such technology will make its way into a shipping product.

Apple's care detection and alert patent application was first filed for in September 2015 and credits Martha E. Hankey and James Foster as its inventors.
MacsAlwaysbrakken
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    mr omr o Posts: 1,046member
    Now, this is what I call a *killer feature*: It is both a Time & Life saver. A must have for the  watch.

    >:x

    EDIT: Coincidentally, this is my *911*'th post.
    edited March 2016 radarthekatpscooter63MacsAlwaysjdgazpatchythepiratelostkiwiargonaut
  • Reply 2 of 28
    This is a good idea and a bad idea. I work as an emergency responder and having so many alerts going out at one time can be very challenging To the service, especially when the apple watch isn't accurate. The elderly mainly, has brittle and or tough skin at times where the apple watch will and can inaccurately give false readings. I have a apple watch and it's not always accurate. I hope they can get it right th first time. 
    cnocbui
  • Reply 3 of 28
    A patent application published Thursday suggests Apple is working to turn Apple Watch into a full-fledged medical device, one that can monitor a user's vital signs and automatically send out an alert should they need urgent care.

    This is what the watch was supposed to be, should be and will be. Today everyone outside of a hospital bed is unmonitored. Five years from now, I believe it will be considered unsafe/insane to be unmonitored. Everyone in the world who can afford it will be monitored. This is a multibillion-dollar, multibillion-user market that the Apple Watch was always meant to address. And now, hopefully, it will. 

    When this comes out, I will buy an Apple Watch, put it on and never take it off again. 
    patchythepiratelostkiwiargonaut
  • Reply 4 of 28
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,732moderator
    EMSmedic said:
    This is a good idea and a bad idea. I work as an emergency responder and having so many alerts going out at one time can be very challenging To the service, especially when the apple watch isn't accurate. The elderly mainly, has brittle and or tough skin at times where the apple watch will and can inaccurately give false readings. I have a apple watch and it's not always accurate. I hope they can get it right th first time. 

    The interesting thing about the Watch's accuracy is that it doesn't need to be perfectly accurate.  For example, in measuring your exercise levels, the Watch may not perfectly determine your heart rate compared to a professional arm cuff, but that's not the point entirely.  Since its constantly measuring just YOU, it can provide a relative heart rate to determine when you are at rest versus when you are active.  Similar here. If old skin causes the reading to be off a bit, then it'll be off a bit all the time for that person.  Then if it suddenly shifts in a manner that suggests an adverse event, it can generate an internal alert based upon that relative change.  The internal alert event causes the system to look at other data, like accelerometer data, which while much more accurate is somewhat subject as to what it might imply.  Together these data points, in context with the data stream that came immediately prior, might be able to make a good assumption about what's going on with the wearer.

     And, of course, Apole would likely roll out support for only those scenarios where their research and testing gave them a high level of confidence in the ability of te assumption to be accurate.  So you'll get certain types of monitoring and not others, at least initially.  Also, as I've suggested here before the Watch was even introduced, there might one day be medical monitoring-specific bands, such as bands with glocuse monitoring technology built in. These would cost more, might be offered by medical device manufacturers rather than Apple, and covered by insurance.  They might tie into Apple's own software that provides the monitoring and alert system, so the software side is all one system and not separate systems from multiple vendors.  
    rogue cheddarMacsAlwayslostkiwibestkeptsecretargonaut
  • Reply 5 of 28
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 851member
    In the USA the FDA strongly regulates medical devices. They err on the side of caution and it is very difficult to add new devices or change old ones. I've read plenty of stories where medical device manufacturers run into catch-22 situations where they need to install security updates NOW on the device (running something like Windows XP a few years ago) but can't do it without FDA approval which can take years. Regulations are creating a paralysis by analysis situation. Devices such as the Apple Watch will be useful and potentially life-saving in spite of flaws and inaccuracies.
    edited March 2016 jbdragonargonaut
  • Reply 6 of 28
    sandorsandor Posts: 478member
    interdyne said:
    A patent application published Thursday suggests Apple is working to turn Apple Watch into a full-fledged medical device, one that can monitor a user's vital signs and automatically send out an alert should they need urgent care.

    This is what the watch was supposed to be, should be and will be. Today everyone outside of a hospital bed is unmonitored. Five years from now, I believe it will be considered unsafe/insane to be unmonitored. Everyone in the world who can afford it will be monitored. This is a multibillion-dollar, multibillion-user market that the Apple Watch was always meant to address. And now, hopefully, it will. 

    When this comes out, I will buy an Apple Watch, put it on and never take it off again. 

    that is hyperbole.

    The largest portion of the population has absolutley no need to be monitored for health events.
    To even suggest that it will be "unsafe/insane to be unmonitored" is a ludicrous statement.

    singularitynolamacguy
  • Reply 7 of 28
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,606member
    This sounds like it's opening up a world of liability.
  • Reply 8 of 28
    wonkothesanewonkothesane Posts: 1,265member
    crowley said:
    This sounds like it's opening up a world of liability.
    Yes. However, now that the technology egg of wearables is hatching the potential is undeniably there and now is a good moment to start preparing for such things as liability when the maturity level eventually  has arrived for wearables to be functioning as medical devices as well. A decade or so into the future it might be normality alteady. 
  • Reply 9 of 28
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,764member
    This has been spoken of since before the watch was launched. However, managing the myriad of FDA requirements for multiple health monitoring uses will mean it will be years before much of this is realized. Think about it. If you're a company making just a heart monitor of some type, you must submit your device and all relevent testing and data showing it is safe and effective to the FDA. Then the FDA will review (usually, but not always slowly) and if OK eventually approve for sale for that application. Now imagine a future Apple Watch that wants to monitor heart rate and blood sugar and maybe respiration and something else. Each one of those applications will need to be approved by the FDA. So, it is conceivable that Apple may wind up releasing updates that "activate" various features as they get approval. This is not a one-time thing. If Apple makes the long-term committment to turn the watch into a full-fledged medical device, it will result in continuous evolution of the feature set and capabilities and they will need to manage the regulatory process. No to mention the whole medicare/insurance issues as a medical device.
    nolamacguyjbdragon
  • Reply 10 of 28
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    mike1 said:
    This has been spoken of since before the watch was launched. However, managing the myriad of FDA requirements for multiple health monitoring uses will mean it will be years before much of this is realized. Think about it. If you're a company making just a heart monitor of some type, you must submit your device and all relevent testing and data showing it is safe and effective to the FDA. Then the FDA will review (usually, but not always slowly) and if OK eventually approve for sale for that application. Now imagine a future Apple Watch that wants to monitor heart rate and blood sugar and maybe respiration and something else. Each one of those applications will need to be approved by the FDA. So, it is conceivable that Apple may wind up releasing updates that "activate" various features as they get approval. This is not a one-time thing. If Apple makes the long-term committment to turn the watch into a full-fledged medical device, it will result in continuous evolution of the feature set and capabilities and they will need to manage the regulatory process. No to mention the whole medicare/insurance issues as a medical device.
    Considering the money to be made, that a foray in the medical field was one of Jobs last goals before he died and Apple's resources, I'm sure Apple is going there.
    nolamacguy
  • Reply 11 of 28
    EMSmedic said:
    This is a good idea and a bad idea. I work as an emergency responder and having so many alerts going out at one time can be very challenging To the service, especially when the apple watch isn't accurate. The elderly mainly, has brittle and or tough skin at times where the apple watch will and can inaccurately give false readings. I have a apple watch and it's not always accurate. I hope they can get it right th first time. 
    I agree with the problems with inaccuracy.

    I live in a tri-level house with a set of six stairs between two levels and a set of eight stairs between the other two, with a short hallway between the two sets of stairs. Even though I go up and down those stairs dozens of times a day my iPhone only reports one flight of stairs a day on average. I assume the half-flights with a short horizontal distance between them confuse it.

    If every sensor in the system has similar inaccuracies it can result in a mess of mis-reporting.
  • Reply 12 of 28
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 3,484member
    interdyne said:
    A patent application published Thursday suggests Apple is working to turn Apple Watch into a full-fledged medical device, one that can monitor a user's vital signs and automatically send out an alert should they need urgent care.

    This is what the watch was supposed to be, should be and will be. Today everyone outside of a hospital bed is unmonitored. Five years from now, I believe it will be considered unsafe/insane to be unmonitored. Everyone in the world who can afford it will be monitored. This is a multibillion-dollar, multibillion-user market that the Apple Watch was always meant to address. And now, hopefully, it will. 

    When this comes out, I will buy an Apple Watch, put it on and never take it off again. 
    Er, when did anyone at Apple ever say the watch was supposed to be a health monitoring device from day one? Based on comments from Tim Cook it seems clear Apple doesn't want to be making stuff that will be stuck in some FDA approval queue for years. And that's just the US. What about other countries that have specific regulations for medical devices. I see that as something Apple would want to avoid.
    nolamacguy
  • Reply 13 of 28
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,764member
    EMSmedic said:
    This is a good idea and a bad idea. I work as an emergency responder and having so many alerts going out at one time can be very challenging To the service, especially when the apple watch isn't accurate. The elderly mainly, has brittle and or tough skin at times where the apple watch will and can inaccurately give false readings. I have a apple watch and it's not always accurate. I hope they can get it right th first time. 
    I agree with the problems with inaccuracy.

    I live in a tri-level house with a set of six stairs between two levels and a set of eight stairs between the other two, with a short hallway between the two sets of stairs. Even though I go up and down those stairs dozens of times a day my iPhone only reports one flight of stairs a day on average. I assume the half-flights with a short horizontal distance between them confuse it.

    If every sensor in the system has similar inaccuracies it can result in a mess of mis-reporting.

    My iPhone 6 very accurately counts the flights of stairs I climb each day. My office is on the second floor and I always take the stairs. Average about 15 climbs per day. There's either something wrong with your phone or you're using an older phone that doesn't have the latest sensors.
  • Reply 14 of 28
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,253member
    Perfect for the massive aging, retiring and dying Boomer population. Once marketed for this added functionality, they'll find a whole new audience.
  • Reply 15 of 28
    ajmasajmas Posts: 552member
    The catch, IMO, is that if an elderly person is using it, that they need to remember to charge it every day, for it to offer a chance to save a life. This the weak point that needs to be worked on.

    Mind you, if there is no alternative then the charge limitation, is better than nothing.   
  • Reply 16 of 28
    wonkothesanewonkothesane Posts: 1,265member
    ajmas said:
    The catch, IMO, is that if an elderly person is using it, that they need to remember to charge it every day, for it to offer a chance to save a life. This the weak point that needs to be worked on.

    Mind you, if there is no alternative then the charge limitation, is better than nothing.   
    Yes and no. Today, you manage without the watch as safe-guard. Once you start using it and more importantly, relying on it, then a forgotten charge leading to a depleted battery can lead to critical situations. Unless, the system clearly alerts the user of the need to recharge in time.
  • Reply 17 of 28
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    interdyne said:
    A patent application published Thursday suggests Apple is working to turn Apple Watch into a full-fledged medical device, one that can monitor a user's vital signs and automatically send out an alert should they need urgent care.

    This is what the watch was supposed to be, should be and will be.
    that's not true. no one knows what their roadmap was or is for the device. as is, I'm getting great value from Day 1:

    - SS + leather strap looks great during the day

    - the sport band makes it super useful during my workouts, where the StrongLifts app sends me notifications when it's time to resume each of my sets

    - messages and notifications are a no brainier and time saver

    - Apple Pay

    - controlling the lighting scenes in my house is a daily thing

    ...all great, and none having to do with being a medical device. 
    edited March 2016
  • Reply 18 of 28
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member

    ajmas said:
    The catch, IMO, is that if an elderly person is using it, that they need to remember to charge it every day, for it to offer a chance to save a life. This the weak point that needs to be worked on.

    Mind you, if there is no alternative then the charge limitation, is better than nothing.   
    do these hypothetical elderly also have trouble charging their hypothetical smartphones daily? why is the watch a hypothetical problem for them but their phones aren't? 

    my devices charge right next to my bed in a neat cradle. it's no different than taking off a watch or earrings before bed. things elderly have been doing for centuries. 
  • Reply 19 of 28
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,282member
    ajmas said:
    The catch, IMO, is that if an elderly person is using it, that they need to remember to charge it every day, for it to offer a chance to save a life. This the weak point that needs to be worked on.

    Mind you, if there is no alternative then the charge limitation, is better than nothing.   
    Yes and no. Today, you manage without the watch as safe-guard. Once you start using it and more importantly, relying on it, then a forgotten charge leading to a depleted battery can lead to critical situations. Unless, the system clearly alerts the user of the need to recharge in time.
    The elderly forget things all the time. There is no substitute for a reliable battery in current dedicated emergency notification devices, that can last long enough to be changed at regular intervals by family or support staff. 

    My my mom forgets to charge her phones all the time, both iPhone and wireless landline handsets, and in her case, Bluetooth earpiece. Heck I forget to charge my phone sometimes. Stuff happens. To think an elederly person can manage such things with a higher degree of reliability than the average adult is unrealistic.

    I agree, this isn't such a problem if the system has an excellent recharge notification method, with redundant backups, like if the watch dies, the alerts continue through iCloud to the phone, iPad, Mac, etc. -- maybe even a special charging base that gives off an audible alarm, with visual enhancements as well. It should also have an audible notification to remind the person to put the watch back on. 

    Even better is is to have two Watches, and simply swap them out at bedtime, since any time without the watch is time where the user is at risk. A nightly trip to the bathroom, could end tragically while the watch sits charging on the nightstand 10 feet away. I would prefer a combination of all of the above to ensure that watch never comes off.

    edited March 2016
  • Reply 20 of 28
    The false alarm rate will be high. And it turns out that heart rate is not the best early alert -- respiratory rate is more specific. The Watch doesn't measure that unless I'm missing something in this patent. The algorithm required to reduce the false alarm rate without missing true events (if you miss those, what good is the app?) is challenging. Not to say Apple can't do it and get it into the Watch or Watch/iPhone combination, but it requires a lot of processing muscle.
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