Stanford study indicates Apple Watch is accurate enough to conduct at-home tests for cardiovascular diseases

Apple Watch iPhone Stanford Study CVD
Apple-branded devices offer ‘frailty’ tests with acceptable reliability. Pic credit: Dariusz Sankowski/Pixabay

Apple Watch and the iOS iPhone are good enough to conduct “frailty” tests at home. A Stanford study (Apple Inc. funded) has concluded that smart devices are sensitive and accurate enough to act as an alternative to preliminary clinical tests for cardiovascular diseases.

A new study on the effectiveness of the Apple Watch and Apple iPhone as tools for measuring functional capacity in patients with Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) offers a breather to sufferers. Researchers at Stanford University have concluded that Apple-branded devices can conduct tests for CVD with acceptable accuracy and reliability.

At-home ‘Frailty’ tests possible on Apple Inc. smart devices:

A new Apple Inc.-funded study conducted by Stanford researchers has concluded that the Apple iPhone and Apple Watch can conduct ‘frailty’ tests at home. A total of 110 people participated in the study, and the results are reportedly promising.

For the case study, researchers measured Frailty in terms of the distance a patient can travel in a six-minute walk. Doctors normally assess the condition of a CVD patient with a six-minute walk test (6MWT). Researchers specifically defined frailty in the study “as walking <300m on an in-clinic 6MWT.”

The Stanford study concluded an Apple smartwatch was able to accurately assess frailty with a specificity of 85 percent and sensitivity of 90 percent in a supervised, in-clinic test.

More importantly, however, an Apple Watch was able to do the same accurately, with a specificity of 60 percent and sensitivity of 83 percent in unsupervised, at-home tests.

As the two findings indicate, the Apple-branded smartwatch is “accurate enough to replace the in-clinic tests in many circumstances.”

The full paper is available on PLOS One.

Can Apple iPhone and Apple Watch replace the clinical tests that CVD patients need?

The tests merely indicated that people with CVD can rely on their Apple-branded smart devices for an estimation of their frailty. People suffering from CVD need not head over to their primary healthcare facility or doctor for routine tests.

Apple iPhone and Apple Watch are laden with fairly accurate sensors. Moreover, there are some very powerful and accurate algorithms at work.

Together, the software and hardware are quite capable but these devices cannot or should not be considered as a replacement to clinical tests that trained physicians or doctors conduct.

It is important to note that Apple Inc. funded the study. Stanford researchers reportedly did conduct the study independently. Still, with just 110 test subjects, the sample size wasn’t nearly enough to represent demographic diversity.

Interestingly, the Apple Watch has a third-party app called VascTrac, which the researchers used to run their tests. However, Apple has added the 6MWT test as a built-in feature of WatchOS. This makes VascTrac just about redundant.

Although there’s a fair bit of valid skepticism, smart devices with multiple health-monitoring sensors are needed more than ever. With the ongoing pandemic forcing people to stay indoors, routine health-checkups have become a challenge for many.

The challenges are compounded for weak and fragile people, especially those with cardiovascular diseases. Smart devices such as WatchOS running Apple Watch and iOS running Apple iPhone can offer reliable indicators about health. Thereafter, doctors and trained physicians can verify if patients need to visit a healthcare center.

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