Many smart devices today, both wearables like smartwatches and even smartphones, are equipped with sensors that not only track our physical activities but can also be used to measure things like heart rate or blood oxygen levels. More often than not, manufacturers advise people to always defer to a professional for medical advice and that these readings shouldn’t be taken at face value. In one exceptional case, however, such a wearable provided more useful data that helped save an elderly woman’s life when a traditional hospital ECG couldn’t.
Professional hospital equipment is called professional exactly because it is specifically made and tested to address the demands of a particular medical need. Of course, doctors will base their diagnosis based on what those tools report, and sometimes the tools might get it wrong.
A particular case in Germany involved an 80-year-old woman who came to the University Medical Center Mainz about chest pains and irregular heart rhythm. A 12-channel ECG showed no evidence of ischemia or the reduced flow of blood to the heart. That would have been the end of it had the woman not showed readings from her Apple Watch’s ECG, prompting the doctors to change the diagnosis and get the woman treated for what could have been a fatal heart condition.
This incident adds to the ever-growing testimonies on how the Apple Watch’s health features have saved lives. Even something as simple as a heart rate monitor has already alerted users and their physicians about non-visible conditions. The list just got longer when Apple added its new ECG implementation as well as fall detection.
This incident, however, should not be taken as evidence that the Apple Watch’s ECG feature is superior to hospital equipment. Instead, it should be seen as a case where consumer wearables can augment or even fine-tune professional tools to help doctors make better diagnoses.