Users regard Apple Watch as a medical tool and worry about results

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited January 13
The continued addition of health and fitness features to Apple Watch, Fitbit and other devices, has led to wearers treating them as medical tools -- with some over-worrying about their readings.

An Apple Watch showing a blood oxygen reading.
An Apple Watch showing a blood oxygen reading.


Wearing an Apple Watch or Fitbit constantly has been a boon for anyone concerned about their fitness. Plus it's given patients the ability to present long-term health data to doctors, and of course Apple Watch has saved countless lives.

However, there is also evidence that the devices are causing anxiety, specifically because users appear to be regarding fitness tools as medical diagnostic ones.

According to CNET, anecdotal evidence shows that people who get unclear results for any reason, are repeating tests over and over. One interviewee, Bill, told CNET that he had got a Fitbit because he was anxious about his health, but that anxiety rose as he kept getting inconclusive results.

An inconclusive result on a Fitbit means only that the device was not able to get a reliable reading. The company says that, for instance, moving too much during the scan can cause it.

But that didn't reassure Bill, who would then take up to 20 ECGs every day.

"If it was inconclusive, I'd be like 'OK, I need it to say normal,'" he told CNET. "And I would keep checking it to see if it was normal or not, just to reassure myself that I was fine."

Dr Lindsay Rosman, assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine's cardiology division, has been studying the effects of devices on anxiety.

"As a researcher, I think it's a fantastic tool," Dr. Rosman said. "As a clinician in a cardiology clinic in particular, I think it opens the door to a lot of questions and concerns from patients that are currently being unaddressed."

As one example, Dr. Rosman recounted how a 70-year-old woman misunderstood her smartwatch notifications and believed she had "worsening cardiac function." As a consequence, she took 916 ECGs over the course of a year.

Apple Watch ECG


Anxiety is only likely to grow, according to CNET's sources, as devices add more features.

"I do get nervous, honestly, when I see more data types that are more truly clinical being used in a consumer way," Dr. Devin Mann, associate professor of population health and medicine at New York University Langone Health, said. "Because the conditions tied to those data types are a little scarier, and people get scared easier."

The issue is that Apple Watch and other devices are being sold with ever more health features. Despite manufacturers' advice, users are assuming greater medical accuracy than they should.

"There is a distinction between measurements for wellness, which provide general guidance and would encourage you to exercise in a way that's helpful for you and to eat more healthy foods, and a medical device," Dr. Paul Friedman, a cardiologist in the Mayo Clinic's AI in Cardiology Work Group told CNET. "And I think the blurring of those is causing some confusion."

Separately, the medical community worldwide has recently been advising people that the "future of health" where Apple Watch is a true, daily care device, is likely to be years away.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,768member
    Come on people, if you think you have an issue consult your doctor. Your watch (I now have one after not wearing one for 8 years) can help you out but it’s not a replacement for a doctor (although it can assist a lazy know-it-all doctor). People need to start using the brain a bit more. 
    ronnn2itivguy13485lollivermacxpressdewmetwokatmew
  • Reply 2 of 11
    +1000 I don't have Apple Watch because I think I will check my heart rate numerous times in a day, although my heart is healthy. 
  • Reply 3 of 11
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,768member
    +1000 I don't have Apple Watch because I think I will check my heart rate numerous times in a day, although my heart is healthy. 
    I’m actually monitoring my heart rate more often, especially when walking. It helps me gauge how fast I should be going and when I should be resting. I stopped doing an ECG because it’s good. 
    ronntwokatmewGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 4 of 11
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,859member
    +1000 I don't have Apple Watch because I think I will check my heart rate numerous times in a day, although my heart is healthy. 
    FYI it does check your HR numerous times in a day, but you don't have to open an app or do anything to do so. It just does. If there's something weird, it will tell you. This means you don't need to reach out, it will push. I find this no-stress.
    n2itivguylollivermacxpresstwokatmewscstrrf
  • Reply 5 of 11
    On a related subject, the Apple Research app has been broken for months and not fixed. It is phone based but uses the Watch for some metrics. Can’t help but wonder how those researchers who are running their projects on the platform are reacting. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 6 of 11
    rob53 said:
    Come on people, if you think you have an issue consult your doctor. Your watch (I now have one after not wearing one for 8 years) can help you out but it’s not a replacement for a doctor (although it can assist a lazy know-it-all doctor). People need to start using the brain a bit more. 
    People aren't dumb.  It's human nature to take the Watch health readings seriously.  You're sold a device that has all these medical reading capabilities.  Are people supposed to ignore them and assume they're wrong?  It's also human nature for people to become obsessed with checking their stats and worrying about them.  Exactly the reason I got the Watch SE instead of the 6 or 7.  I don't want all those medical readings.  Sometimes less information is more.
  • Reply 7 of 11
    ITGUYINSD said:
    rob53 said:
    Come on people, if you think you have an issue consult your doctor. Your watch (I now have one after not wearing one for 8 years) can help you out but it’s not a replacement for a doctor (although it can assist a lazy know-it-all doctor). People need to start using the brain a bit more. 
    People aren't dumb.  It's human nature to take the Watch health readings seriously.  You're sold a device that has all these medical reading capabilities.  Are people supposed to ignore them and assume they're wrong?  It's also human nature for people to become obsessed with checking their stats and worrying about them.  Exactly the reason I got the Watch SE instead of the 6 or 7.  I don't want all those medical readings.  Sometimes less information is more.
    lol. “I don’t want to worry about life-saving warnings when unusual conditions are detected so I just won’t detect for them”. That’s….some logic… Very reactive way of being, rather than proactive. Hopefully you aren’t tasked with doing any proactive event monitoring in your IT-guy role, or there will be troubles.

    As noted most of the detections for potentially life-saving warnings happen in the background, and push alert you. Not getting this information isn’t “more”, it’s less. 
    edited January 13 twokatmewscstrrf
  • Reply 8 of 11
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,089member
    On a related subject, the Apple Research app has been broken for months and not fixed. It is phone based but uses the Watch for some metrics. Can’t help but wonder how those researchers who are running their projects on the platform are reacting. 

    What are you basing that statement on?
    I participate in to two studies under Apple research and have not seen any problems.

    All of the watch metrics make it up to the Health app on the phone -- so research has no need to access the watch directly.  They just take the accumulated data from the Health app.   In fact, I think they wait 24 hours before gathering the data to insure the person doesn't change their privacy settings.
  • Reply 9 of 11
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,089member
    Personally, I would bet that health care professionals are more stressed about metrics from the Apple Watch than are Apple Watch users.  The Watch impinges on what has always been their sacred territory.
  • Reply 10 of 11
    rob53 said:
    +1000 I don't have Apple Watch because I think I will check my heart rate numerous times in a day, although my heart is healthy. 
    I’m actually monitoring my heart rate more often, especially when walking. It helps me gauge how fast I should be going and when I should be resting. I stopped doing an ECG because it’s good. 
    Yes. Trust your life in these devices. Watch also how fast you eat and what you eat using iWatch and any mobile vendor devices. It will really run your life as you should live. Who knows? It might recommend you friends and next spouse. you might even find out sexual orientation from those devices at some point of life.
  • Reply 11 of 11
    This is perfectly natural, and to be expected.

    Why anyone feels surprised is beyond me.
    darkvader
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