New Health Features for Atrial Fibrillation and Medication Tracking

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Apple plans to release a new version of WatchOS this fall with a collection of improved health features. Image courtesy of Apple
  • The latest software update for Apple Watch, WatchOS 9, brings new health-related features.
  • New features include improved sleep monitoring, a medication management app and improved heart rate tracking for people with atrial fibrillation (AFib).
  • WatchOS 9 will be released later this fall.

This week Apple introduced WatchOS 9, the latest software update for Apple Watch.

This release adds several features, including better sleep monitoring, a medication management app, and a heart rate tracker for people with atrial fibrillation (AFib).

The announcement underscores Apple’s commitment to expanding the health and fitness uses of the Apple Watch.

The sleep tracking feature puts the company in the same league as competitors such as Fitbit and Oura, while the medication and AFib tools expand Apple’s embrace of sleep-centric health monitoring. patient.

Here is an overview of these new health features.

For people with multiple health conditions, taking medication on a regular basis can be a challenge, which can negatively impact their quality of life and health status.

One study estimated that between 44% and 76% of people with multiple chronic conditions did not take their medications as prescribed, although others to research found lower rates of medication nonadherence.

Whereas concerns about drug costs cause many people to skip doses or cut pills in half to stretch their supply, sometimes people struggle to stick to their medication schedule.

WatchOS 9 tries to make it easier for you to take your medications – or vitamins and supplements – on time by letting you create schedules and set reminders.

Alison Phillips, PhD, associate professor of behavioral medicine and director of the Healthy Habits Lab at Iowa State University, thinks this feature could help some people stay on track.

“Since forgetting to take medication is a major reason for non-adherence, reminders can definitely help people stick better,” she said.

Some research shows that people who use mobile apps to remind themselves to take their medications on a schedule seem to fare better, although it’s unclear how well people fare longer term.

A device can certainly help you remember to take your medications regularly, but Phillips said for this feature to work, you need to have your device with you at the right time.

Additionally, people can become dependent on the device for the “usual” signal, she said. If they lose the device or if it breaks, they may lose the habit.

“That’s why I prefer technology to be used in the short term, to help individuals establish an autonomous habit – a habit that depends on the individual’s usual environment,” she said.

People in his studies were more successful at linking their medications or other habits to their morning or evening routines, because those routines happen every day.

In addition to allowing people to set up medication schedules and reminders, WatchOS 9 will also flag potential drug interactions. While a person’s pharmacy should detect them, the Apple Watch adds another layer of security for people on multiple medications.

One of the most clinically challenging aspects of WatchOS 9 is AFib history, which estimates how often your heart is in atrial fibrillation, or AFib.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia, expected to affect more than 12 million Americans in 2030, according to the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention.

This condition occurs when the upper and lower chambers of the heart are out of sync, causing the heart to beat too quickly, too slowly, or irregularly.

When AFib history is turned on, the Apple Watch uses its heart monitoring capabilities to estimate how often your heart is in atrial fibrillation.

A summary of this data can be downloaded in PDF format and shared with your doctor. This feature is intended for use by people with diagnosed atrial fibrillation.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration cleared WatchOS 9’s AFib history feature for use with the Apple Watch and iPhone Health app.

Researchers outside of Apple are also developing ways to use Apple Watch data to monitor other heart conditions.

A recent study by Mayo Clinic researchers, presented May 1 at the Heart Rhythm Society conference, found that data collected by the watch could be used to detect left ventricular dysfunction – a weak heart pump – regardless of where the patients live.

“Advanced diagnostics that once required a trip to a clinic can be performed with precision, as this Apple Watch ECG study shows, from a patient’s wrist, whether they live in Brazil or Baton Rouge,” said said Dr. Bradley Leibovich, medical director of the Center for Digital at Mayo Clinic. Health, said in a press release.

“App-based access to a medical center can help reduce health disparities by making high-level diagnostics accessible to more people in real time,” he added.

Apple has also improved the Apple Watch’s sleep analysis capabilities by adding “Sleep Stages” to WatchOS 9.

The watch uses signals from the accelerometer and heart rate sensor to show how long you’ve been in REM, central, or deep sleep.

This data syncs with the Health app on the iPhone, which lets you see graphs of your sleep as well as data on your heart rate and breathing rate, also captured by the Apple Watch.

In addition to these health-related features, WatchOS 9 adds new stats to help runners track their performance and reduce their risk of injury, including stride length, power, segments, and splits.

The watch update will also feature four new watch faces, support for new keyboard languages, less distracting notifications, and redesigned apps.

WatchOS 9 is available now on Apple Watch Series 4 and later in developer beta and public beta in July. WatchOS 9 will be available as a free update in the fall.

Lance B. Holton