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Apple Watch inches toward becoming a medical device
Published in The Egyptian Gazette on 15 - 09 - 2018

CUPERTINO, California, Sept 15, 2018 (News Wires) - Apple is trying to turn its smartwatch from a niche gadget into a lifeline to better health by slowly evolving it into a medical device.
In its fourth incarnation, called the Series 4 and due out later this month, the Apple Watch will add features that allow it to take high-quality heart readings and detect falls. It's part of Apple's long-in-the-making strategy to give people a distinct reason to buy a wrist gadget that largely does things smartphones already do.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has long aimed to emphasize the health- and fitness-tracking abilities of the smartwatch. The original version featured a heart-rate sensor that fed data into fitness and workout apps so they could suggest new goals and offer digital "rewards" for fitness accomplishments.
The latest Apple Watch version unveiled Wednesday is pushing the health envelope even further – in particular by taking electrocardiograms, or EKGs, on the device, a feature given clearance by the US Food and Drug Administration, Apple said. The watch will also watch for irregular heartbeats and can detect when the wearer has fallen, the company said.
EKGs are important tests of heart health that typically require a doctor visit. The feature gained an onstage endorsement from Ivor Benjamin, a cardiologist who heads the American Heart Association, who said such real-time data would change the way doctors work.
"This is enormous," Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen said of the Apple Watch's EKG feature. It could turn smartwatches "from something people buy for prestige into something they buy for more practical reasons," he said. It could also lead some health insurance plans to subsidize the cost of an Apple Watch, Nguyen said.
That would help defray the $400 starting price for a device that still requires a companion iPhone that can now cost more than $1,000.
The watch will use new sensors on the back and on the watch dial. A new app will say whether each reading is normal or shows signs of atrial fibrillation – an irregular heart rate that increases the risk of heart complications, such as stroke and heart failure. Apple says the heart data can be shared with doctors through a PDF file.


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