28th January 2019
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I regularly read articles about Apple products that seem to try and be negative just for clickbait reasons, or because it’s a trendy thing to do. But not many of them are as confusing as this article in New Scientist.

In just under 500 words, Clare Wilson describes the new heart rate monitoring features in the Series 4 Apple Watch, the main one being the ability to run an ECG. However counter to the title, the main body of the article seems to praise the new feature. With about 20% of it actually explaining the point they’re trying to make:

But many people have an irregular heart rhythm without symptoms. They will be told by their watch to take the ECG result to a doctor. They could then get potentially risky surgery, go on unnecessary medications risking side effects such as dizziness. At the least, they will be falsely alarmed.

Several trials have investigated whether it is helpful to give ECGs to people without symptoms and the US Preventive Services Task Force has concluded that the evidence fails to show this approach does more good than harm.

The point they’re trying to make is that people will be diagnosed with irregular heart rhythms, but as they lack any negative symptoms, they may be lead to having unnecessary risky procedures.

I have two points to make regarding this. Firstly, if you have an irregular heart rhythm, and the watch detects it, then it’s doing exactly what it’s meant to do. And secondly, if you find you do have one, and even without symptoms, your doctor puts you through risky surgery, then that’s by no means the fault of the watch.

Some people will always read any slightly negative diagnosis with the worst case scenario in mind. That’s why there are such things as hypochondriacs. But then that’s also where qualified doctors come into it. By no means do I think Apple wants you to take an ECG on your watch, and based on that one result, have heart surgery. It’s an indicator that you can use to diagnose atrial fibrillation, and then you can go to a medical professional to further diagnose any issues.

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