Mayo Clinic is working on an algorithm that analyzes data from electrocardiograms recorded on Apple Watches. This algorithm will be able to detect a weak heart pump straight from these EKG tests. This could possibly detect life-threatening conditions earlier in users, without being in a medical setting. 

Reported by STAT, this algorithm was presented at the Heart Rhythm Society conference in San Francisco. The study found that the algorithm accurately detected weak heart pumps in a small number of patients. This test is part of a decentralized study including 125,000 Apple Watch EKG tests from participants across the US and 11 countries. 

Cardiologists at the clinic believe the new results will “establish the early feasibility of embedding that capability in [Apple Watch].” 

This demonstrates that you can design studies to explore the utility of single-lead (EKG) from devices like Apple Watch for clinical problems, and the researchers need to be commended for that. This should be viewed as a first step, but by no means is it ready for prime time.

Collin Stultz, cardiologist at Mass General Brigham in Boston

The study also utilized data from over 2,400 people who recently had EKGs. An app from the Mayo Clinic analyzes EKG tracings using the algorithm. Of the 16 patients said to have weak heart pumps, 13 of these were correct.

It helps detect heart problems early

While it’s best to use the algorithm on patients who have a higher chance of heart problems, it’s unclear who will actually benefit. However, the clinic is working on improving this. It’s currently working on a study that will include one million people worldwide to test various heart function algorithms. Its goal is to detect heart disease earlier in patients, so they can receive treatment before things get worse. 

According to the STAT article, a weak heart pump is treatable and affects about 3% of people globally. Someone with a weak heart pump is at greater risk of arrhythmias and heart disease. 

If you’re a person who has high blood pressure and diabetes and you’re over 60, you may have a weak heart pump and not know it. You may not be going to your doctor too often, but a watch you buy at the store could tell you there’s an important signal that needs to be screened, so the implications of this are huge.

Paul Friedman, chair of Cardiovascular Medicine at Mayo Clinic and the leader of the study

More study is in the works to make sure the algorithm can work with diverse individuals. It also aims to help high-risk patients seek better health outcomes early on.

9to5Mac’s Take

As more and more people purchase Apple Watches for health purposes, it seems about time additional benefits arrive. It will take some time for this Apple Watch algorithm to improve, but it’s nice to see progress. While these devices have saved lives before, they will probably save even more in the future.

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About the Author

Allison McDaniel

Allison is a News Writer at 9to5Mac covering Apple news and rumors.

You can email her directly at allison@9to5mac.com or catch her on Twitter at @aamcdani