Apple Watch's healthcare run can go on for miles

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited October 2020
The Apple Watch's path into healthcare is a different route from its original fashion focus, but the pivot has led to the prospect of future designs loaded with even more fitness-related features




The Apple Watch has received praise for helping many people take more care of themselves, as well as potentially saving lives in the process. Frequent reports have surfaced over the years covering events where people were alerted to possible issues, such as heart conditions via the ECG function, which prompted users to seek advice from medical professionals.

However, this healthcare-focus of the Apple Watch wasn't its original intention, a report into the future of the wearable device by Wired reminds.

"We never sat back, as a company, and said "Let's do healthcare," said Apple VP Sumbul Desai, who joined Apple's health team in 2017. "Our journey in health started with the Health app, and that was really our first step," Desai proposes, rather than the Apple Watch.

A change in the usage of the optical heart rate sensor in the Apple Watch Series 3 to more accurately measure heart rate is credited by Desai as being the main reason behind the Apple Watch's pivot.

"We put the PPG sensor on the watch to actually make sure that we were accurate in our calculation of calories because, using heart rate top be able to drive the accuracy of the calorie calculations, is the right way to do it," admits Desai. "We never had the intention to measure heart rate."

Feedback provided to the team in 2017 relating to how the Apple Watch helped reveal undiagnosed medical conditions led to a focal change, and the development of new features. These included the high heart rate notification, the development of irregular heart rhythm notifications, and an ECG in the Apple Watch Series 4.

Changes to watchOS have also added improvements to what people can monitor, including menstrual cycle tracking and the Noise app. Clinical trials have also taken place, centering on the Apple Watch and the data it collects.




The ongoing development of the Apple Watch and its capabilities has led to many rumors about it being able to measure glucose levels in a user in the future, along with oxygenation levels and blood pressure. When combined, these could provide greater insights into fitness in general and the human body, as well as guiding physicians and medical professionals about a user's underlying conditions.

For example, the blood pressure monitoring feature, as revealed in a May patent filing, could enable users to test their levels without requiring a separate cuff or other device. Measuring blood pressure could be used to determine instances of hypertension that could indicate health issues.

An update this fall could include a swathe of mental health features and a blood oxygen sensor to detect if the user is hyperventilating, which when combined with an elevated heart rate reading could warn of a user undergoing a panic attack. By monitoring these elements over the long term, there is even the possibility of the Apple Watch warning users of an imminent panic attack ahead of time.

Anxiety monitoring and sleep tracking have been tipped for inclusion in the Apple Watch Series 6 and watchOS 7. A rumored kids mode could enable the Apple Watch to be worn by younger users, with modified Activity Rings that measure more appropriate data points for their age, rather than the current adult-centric ring system.

There has even been the proposal of a detection system for when the user is potentially drowning, and to automatically call for help.

With the continued appearance of Apple Watch patent filings pointing to potential future features, along with other leaks and rumors about upcoming additions, it's evident that Apple has a lot planned for its wearable device. Other filings have also suggested other products may gain similar health-tracking features, such as AirPods with extra sensors, which gives Apple another avenue to travel down on its healthcare journey.

The big question is working out which direction it wants to go.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    There’s room for Apple to create other on-body monitoring devices which are just as fashion-minded as the Watch. There’s room for armbands, earrings, headbands, tiaras, clips, chokers, and so much more.
  • Reply 2 of 17
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,952member
    ... "We put the PPG sensor on the watch to actually make sure that we were accurate in our calculation of calories because, using heart rate top be able to drive the accuracy of the calorie calculations, is the right way to do it," admits Desai. "We never had the intention to measure heart rate." ...
    Hmm, that's interesting. I didn't know that. So, the health aspect was a bit accidental, yet IMO, has turned out to be the killer feature. (That, and cellular emergency contact.)

    I predicted the cellular aspect (when it was first released), though was skeptical whether they could pull that off. (They did, but pretty short capability. That's enough for emergency, though.)

    If I ever end up getting one, the health aspect will probably be the reason. IMO, that should be separated from the 'fitness' aspects, though, as I think those are based off faulty principals (aside from exercise = good, generally). Trying to measure calories is kind of pointless, or basing your health off of them. But, I'm glad that morphed into the much more useful health-tracking aspects.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 17
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,661member
    Mine’s primary purpose is calorie-counting and exercise tracking since day one.  The messaging is great (don’t need to pull out the phone).

    fashion?  Pffft!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 17
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    cgWerks said:
    ... "We put the PPG sensor on the watch to actually make sure that we were accurate in our calculation of calories because, using heart rate top be able to drive the accuracy of the calorie calculations, is the right way to do it," admits Desai. "We never had the intention to measure heart rate." ...
    Hmm, that's interesting. I didn't know that. So, the health aspect was a bit accidental, yet IMO, has turned out to be the killer feature. (That, and cellular emergency contact.)

    I predicted the cellular aspect (when it was first released), though was skeptical whether they could pull that off. (They did, but pretty short capability. That's enough for emergency, though.)

    If I ever end up getting one, the health aspect will probably be the reason. IMO, that should be separated from the 'fitness' aspects, though, as I think those are based off faulty principals (aside from exercise = good, generally). Trying to measure calories is kind of pointless, or basing your health off of them. But, I'm glad that morphed into the much more useful health-tracking aspects.

    Most major technical advances are similar "accidents" -- built upon earlier research and advances that were expanded and made functional.
    A notable example was the MacIntosh:  What set it apart was its revolutionary GUI -- which Jobs (and later Gates) copied from Xerox.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 5 of 17
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    A major health feature missing from the article is "fall detection".
    As a home health nurse I learned the devastating consequences when an older person falls and can't get up and can't call for help.   it's ugly.  Truly ugly.  And the watch is darn near perfect for that:   it can be worn 23 hours a day (so it covers the time at night when they have to get up to pee) and it can also be worn in the shower -- two of the most dangerous times for a senior.

    Or even for myself:   Last fall while out on a trail running by myself I tripped on a leaf covered rock and woke up face down in the dirt with my watch asking if it should call 911 for me.

    And also, as the article does mention, it is the center of a number of research studies.   I am enrolled in one of them being conducted by Apple and (I think) Stanford.   It combines data from the watch with data gleaned from my Medicare account (with my consent) to measure various health measures -- mostly arrhythmia.
    cyberzombiecgWerks
  • Reply 6 of 17
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    eriamjh said:
    Mine’s primary purpose is calorie-counting and exercise tracking since day one.  The messaging is great (don’t need to pull out the phone).

    fashion?  Pffft!
    You can “Pfffft” fashion all day if you like, but people won’t buy something that makes them look worse or stupid when they wear it. Latest example:  Look at the thousands of variations on COVID-19-driven face masks.
  • Reply 7 of 17
    There’s room for Apple to create other on-body monitoring devices which are just as fashion-minded as the Watch. There’s room for armbands, earrings, headbands, tiaras, clips, chokers, and so much more.
    Tiara’s, chokers, headbands…? Flower power wearables thankfully vanished in the late 70’s. But, hey, mental health tracking may be a lucrative cash path.

    Should Apple continue to add “Health” related features to their wearables they should not be sold as such based on flimsy FDA certification. Far more stringent and lengthy clinical trials would need to be conducted otherwise consumers will start getting sucked into buying cheap knock-offs which will use the FDA’s prior example standards shortcut. Next, people will be buying potentially dangerous snake oil which would undo any benefits such products could provide.
  • Reply 8 of 17
    The Apple Watch's path into healthcare is a different route from its original fashion focus, but the pivot has led to the prospect of future designs loaded with even more fitness-related features.
    huh? When the watch was first announced Apple pitched it as three things:

    1. A high quality time piece. 
    2. Communications device 
    3. A “comprehensive health and fitness” device. 

    Not much of a pivot to health when it was one of the big three mentioned at the introduction. From a features stand point there is more they can do to support health than fashion but they still add watch faces, have seasonal bands and mess with the colors/materials. I’d say the communications part has gotten the least live of the three. 
  • Reply 9 of 17
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    There’s room for Apple to create other on-body monitoring devices which are just as fashion-minded as the Watch. There’s room for armbands, earrings, headbands, tiaras, clips, chokers, and so much more.
    Tiara’s, chokers, headbands…? Flower power wearables thankfully vanished in the late 70’s. But, hey, mental health tracking may be a lucrative cash path.

    Should Apple continue to add “Health” related features to their wearables they should not be sold as such based on flimsy FDA certification. Far more stringent and lengthy clinical trials would need to be conducted otherwise consumers will start getting sucked into buying cheap knock-offs which will use the FDA’s prior example standards shortcut. Next, people will be buying potentially dangerous snake oil which would undo any benefits such products could provide.
    Don’t be so dismissive regarding what people are willing to wear. That’s shortsighted.
  • Reply 10 of 17
    jdb8167jdb8167 Posts: 626member
    The Apple Watch's path into healthcare is a different route from its original fashion focus, but the pivot has led to the prospect of future designs loaded with even more fitness-related features.
    huh? When the watch was first announced Apple pitched it as three things:

    1. A high quality time piece. 
    2. Communications device 
    3. A “comprehensive health and fitness” device. 

    Not much of a pivot to health when it was one of the big three mentioned at the introduction. From a features stand point there is more they can do to support health than fashion but they still add watch faces, have seasonal bands and mess with the colors/materials. I’d say the communications part has gotten the least live of the three. 
    I agree. Apple might not have had as much of a focus at launch as it does now but I’m guessing that someone who wasn’t involved in the original Apple watch might not have the perspective that he thinks he does even if he is a VP. Apple put a lot of effort in the original heart sensor. Sure they improved it in later models but that is normal product evolution. And there is no doubt that health is more than just a top 3 feature on the watch now but saying, “We never had the intention to measure heart rate.” until the Apple watch Series 3 is just idiotic and I’m guessing bad reporting by Wired.
    edited May 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 17
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    The Apple Watch's path into healthcare is a different route from its original fashion focus, but the pivot has led to the prospect of future designs loaded with even more fitness-related features.
    huh? When the watch was first announced Apple pitched it as three things:

    1. A high quality time piece. 
    2. Communications device 
    3. A “comprehensive health and fitness” device. 

    Not much of a pivot to health when it was one of the big three mentioned at the introduction. From a features stand point there is more they can do to support health than fashion but they still add watch faces, have seasonal bands and mess with the colors/materials. I’d say the communications part has gotten the least live of the three. 
    Actually, mostly they pushed it as a fashion trinket -- even offering a $10k gold version.
    It wasn't till later that they started pushing fitness and exercise features.

    And, from a marketing perspective, that was probably smart:  They kept it from being perceived as something only nerds of jocks would want.

    edited May 2020 cgWerks
  • Reply 12 of 17
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,099member
    If one company can figure out the evasive blood glucose monitoring, it would be Apple, and if that day comes it will mean billions in revenue for Apple.

    the only way the iKnockoff shops like Samsung and Huawei/Xiaomi can ever do something like this is to literally ignore IP laws and steal Apple’s tech.  China for sure is just waiting.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 17
    The Apple Watch's path into healthcare is a different route from its original fashion focus, but the pivot has led to the prospect of future designs loaded with even more fitness-related features.
    huh? When the watch was first announced Apple pitched it as three things:

    1. A high quality time piece. 
    2. Communications device 
    3. A “comprehensive health and fitness” device. 

    Not much of a pivot to health when it was one of the big three mentioned at the introduction. From a features stand point there is more they can do to support health than fashion but they still add watch faces, have seasonal bands and mess with the colors/materials. I’d say the communications part has gotten the least live of the three. 
    Actually, mostly they pushed it as a fashion trinket -- even offering a $10k gold version.
    It wasn't till later that they started pushing fitness and exercise features.

    And, from a marketing perspective, that was probably smart:  They kept it from being perceived as something only nerds of jocks would want.

    Fitness was one of the big three they featured at the introduction. The list I posted was from the introductory keynote and I put "Comprehensive health and fitness" in quotes because that was a direct quote from Tim Cook right before they went into the overview of fitness features. Saying it wasn't part of the focus from from the outset is demonstrably false. 

    Watches are fashion accessories and Apple made of point of aligning it's product with watches rather than the wearable tech market for broader appeal which was absolutely a smart thing to do. A watch with technology added on is easer to market than technology with a clock as one of its features. And the different materials and ability to customized bands make it more appealing than plastic bands that came in a few colors that Fitbit and the like were offering. I am not down playing any of that as marketing points. What I think is inaccurate is to say they pivoted away from fashion to focus on fitness. That is just completely inaccurate. Apple still focuses on the fashion piece. They sell aluminum, stainless steal, titanium and ceramic watches that all come in multiple colors. They updates the bands seasonally like any fashion line. They add watch faces. This is all about personalization and presentation. They also keep adding health and fitness features. So, no, they didn't away pivot from fashion to health and fitness. They started with both and they are continuing with both.

  • Reply 14 of 17
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    The Apple Watch's path into healthcare is a different route from its original fashion focus, but the pivot has led to the prospect of future designs loaded with even more fitness-related features.
    huh? When the watch was first announced Apple pitched it as three things:

    1. A high quality time piece. 
    2. Communications device 
    3. A “comprehensive health and fitness” device. 

    Not much of a pivot to health when it was one of the big three mentioned at the introduction. From a features stand point there is more they can do to support health than fashion but they still add watch faces, have seasonal bands and mess with the colors/materials. I’d say the communications part has gotten the least live of the three. 
    Actually, mostly they pushed it as a fashion trinket -- even offering a $10k gold version.
    It wasn't till later that they started pushing fitness and exercise features.

    And, from a marketing perspective, that was probably smart:  They kept it from being perceived as something only nerds of jocks would want.

    Fitness was one of the big three they featured at the introduction. The list I posted was from the introductory keynote and I put "Comprehensive health and fitness" in quotes because that was a direct quote from Tim Cook right before they went into the overview of fitness features. Saying it wasn't part of the focus from from the outset is demonstrably false. 

    Watches are fashion accessories and Apple made of point of aligning it's product with watches rather than the wearable tech market for broader appeal which was absolutely a smart thing to do. A watch with technology added on is easer to market than technology with a clock as one of its features. And the different materials and ability to customized bands make it more appealing than plastic bands that came in a few colors that Fitbit and the like were offering. I am not down playing any of that as marketing points. What I think is inaccurate is to say they pivoted away from fashion to focus on fitness. That is just completely inaccurate. Apple still focuses on the fashion piece. They sell aluminum, stainless steal, titanium and ceramic watches that all come in multiple colors. They updates the bands seasonally like any fashion line. They add watch faces. This is all about personalization and presentation. They also keep adding health and fitness features. So, no, they didn't away pivot from fashion to health and fitness. They started with both and they are continuing with both.


    The main thrust was on fashion rather than tech or fitness.   They felt they were competing against the existing high end watch brands -- which all compete mostly on fashion.  They even adopted their terminology.
  • Reply 15 of 17
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,952member
    GeorgeBMac said:
    Most major technical advances are similar "accidents" -- built upon earlier research and advances that were expanded and made functional.
    A notable example was the MacIntosh:  What set it apart was its revolutionary GUI -- which Jobs (and later Gates) copied from Xerox.
    Good point, though I was thinking more along the lines of use-case advancement more than a technological one. The whole watch is a technological advancement, but until someone got the idea to combine that with sensors and add the health stuff, the original use-case would have probably remained fairly limited.

    A major health feature missing from the article is "fall detection".
    As a home health nurse I learned the devastating consequences when an older person falls and can't get up and can't call for help.   it's ugly.  Truly ugly.  And the watch is darn near perfect for that:   it can be worn 23 hours a day (so it covers the time at night when they have to get up to pee) and it can also be worn in the shower -- two of the most dangerous times for a senior.

    Or even for myself:   Last fall while out on a trail running by myself I tripped on a leaf covered rock and woke up face down in the dirt with my watch asking if it should call 911 for me.

    And also, as the article does mention, it is the center of a number of research studies.   I am enrolled in one of them being conducted by Apple and (I think) Stanford.   It combines data from the watch with data gleaned from my Medicare account (with my consent) to measure various health measures -- mostly arrhythmia.
    THIS!!!

    How likely do you think an elderly person is to be freaked out by the idea of accidentally triggering the 911 call, though? I'm used to paying attention to my devices, so that if a false-positive happens, I would probably catch it and stop it. But, I could imagine my dad being fairly oblivious to that. Is much tech-knowledge necessary? Otherwise, this is something we should push for, as my dad is now home alone.

    And, yes, it is something I'll probably consider, if not for the more advanced heart monitoring and stuff, if I eventually start doing more kayaking/hiking, etc.

    Happy_Noodle_Boy said:
    ... Not much of a pivot to health when it was one of the big three mentioned at the introduction. ...
    This is why I noted above that health/fitness need to be separated. There's a big difference between FitBit kind of stuff and heart-condition monitoring. I'm sure they intended the running-tracking kind of stuff, but admitted they hadn't considered the other.

    Happy_Noodle_Boy said:
    ... The intent was to bet a better calorie count by having a more accurate heart rate. ...
    Yes, but that would have been a nearly useless data point, if they hadn't run across the other health aspects. Again, that falls more in FitBit territory.
  • Reply 16 of 17
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member

    A major health feature missing from the article is "fall detection".
    As a home health nurse I learned the devastating consequences when an older person falls and can't get up and can't call for help.   it's ugly.  Truly ugly.  And the watch is darn near perfect for that:   it can be worn 23 hours a day (so it covers the time at night when they have to get up to pee) and it can also be worn in the shower -- two of the most dangerous times for a senior.

    Or even for myself:   Last fall while out on a trail running by myself I tripped on a leaf covered rock and woke up face down in the dirt with my watch asking if it should call 911 for me.

    And also, as the article does mention, it is the center of a number of research studies.   I am enrolled in one of them being conducted by Apple and (I think) Stanford.   It combines data from the watch with data gleaned from my Medicare account (with my consent) to measure various health measures -- mostly arrhythmia.
    .....
    How likely do you think an elderly person is to be freaked out by the idea of accidentally triggering the 911 call, though? I'm used to paying attention to my devices, so that if a false-positive happens, I would probably catch it and stop it. But, I could imagine my dad being fairly oblivious to that. Is much tech-knowledge necessary? Otherwise, this is something we should push for, as my dad is now home alone.

    And, yes, it is something I'll probably consider, if not for the more advanced heart monitoring and stuff, if I eventually start doing more kayaking/hiking, etc.

    ....

    With one significant exception, I have found the fall detection to be highly accurate where it identified when I fell (twice!) while not showing any false positives.
    The one exception is sports:   football & basketball where catching the ball frequently triggers one.   And, the one complaint I have about it is that the watch is pretty subtle in asking if you fell and if it should call 911 -- I wish they would give it a louder sound.

    But, for a senior living alone I consider it ideal:   as a home health nurse I cared for many who had the necklaces & such and frequently, often in the most dangerous conditions,  did not wear them (such as in the shower or getting up at night).   I wear the Apple Watch 23 hours a day -- including showers -- and charge it when I get up in the morning.  Plus, it is nice that it (can) take phone calls, messages and emails so it adds a lot of convenience and a sense of security since you know he won't miss a phone call.   The only part that may be confusing is the plethora of little apps on the screen.   But you are able to control that through the watch app on the phone.

    I very highly recommend it for seniors -- as well as their kids!
    edited May 2020 cgWerks
  • Reply 17 of 17
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,952member
    GeorgeBMac said:
    With one significant exception, I have found the fall detection to be highly accurate where it identified when I fell (twice!) while not showing any false positives.
    The one exception is sports:   football & basketball where catching the ball frequently triggers one.   And, the one complaint I have about it is that the watch is pretty subtle in asking if you fell and if it should call 911 -- I wish they would give it a louder sound.

    But, for a senior living alone I consider it ideal:   as a home health nurse I cared for many who had the necklaces & such and frequently, often in the most dangerous conditions,  did not wear them (such as in the shower or getting up at night).   I wear the Apple Watch 23 hours a day -- including showers -- and charge it when I get up in the morning.  Plus, it is nice that it (can) take phone calls, messages and emails so it adds a lot of convenience and a sense of security since you know he won't miss a phone call.   The only part that may be confusing is the plethora of little apps on the screen.   But you are able to control that through the watch app on the phone.

    I very highly recommend it for seniors -- as well as their kids!
    Thanks. Some of our other relatives have been trying to talk him into the necklace thing, but I think you're right that he wouldn't wear it precisely in many of the situations where it would be most crucial. The big things would be the fall detection and capability to get emergency help... I doubt he'd use it other than that. It's pretty independent from the phone now, right? Do you still even have to have a phone linked to it, or could you literally just get a Watch alone?
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