Apple launches atrial fibrillation study using Apple Watch's heart rate sensor

Apple announced the launch of the Apple Heart Study app, which the company said is "a first-of-its-kind research study using Apple Watch's heart rate sensor to collect data on irregular heart rhythms and notify users who may be experiencing atrial fibrillation." Apple is partnering with Stanford Medicine to perform the study, which was initially announced in September. 

Jeff Williams, Apple chief operating officer, said "this might seem like a simple study, but we think this is a really special time. Hopefully we can save a lot of lives." Lloyd Minor, dean of Stanford University School of Medicine, noted that, "Stanford Medicine faculty will explore how technology like Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor can help usher in a new era of proactive healthcare central to our Precision Health approach." 

According to Apple, the watch's sensor "uses green LED lights flashing hundreds of times per second and light-sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through the wrist." The company added that the sensor gathers signals from four distinct points on the wrist, and when combined with software algorithms, Apple Watch isolates heart rhythms from other noise. 

Apple Watch users in the US aged 22 years or older will be eligible to participate in the study. Individuals who will be identified with an irregular heart rhythm will receive Apple Watch and iPhone notifications, a consultation with a study doctor and an electrocardiogram patch for additional monitoring. Williams noted that Apple has been working with federal regulators and plans to submit the study results for review. 

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