Half positive results, half false positives, plenty of snark.
What did cardiologists learn from 400,000 Apple Watches? Depends whose report you read.
Jack Morse, Mashable: Oh look, the Apple Watch might actually be good for something. Apple touted the findings in a press release, noting the watch “feature’s ability to give a user important health information without creating unnecessary burden to their doctor’s schedule.”
Manas Mishra, Reuters: Apple Watch detects irregular heart beat in large U.S. study. The Apple Watch was able to detect irregular heart pulse rates that could signal the need for further monitoring for a serious heart rhythm problem, according to data from a large study funded by Apple Inc., demonstrating a potential future role for wearable consumer technology in healthcare…
Peter Loftus, Wall Street Journal: Apple Watch Has Mixed Results in Big Heart Study ($). A massive new study found that the pulse sensor in Apple’s watch helped detect a heart-rhythm disorder in a small number of users but may have caused false alarms for others. The study’s mixed findings hinted at the potential of “wearable” gadgets to detect asymptomatic health conditions in people that might otherwise go unnoticed. But doctors said the potential false positives and other aspects of the study show that people should be cautious about relying on the technology as diagnostic tools…
My take: As a recovering science editor (Time, 1995-2007) I have to say that none of these reporters covered themselves in glory.
Mashable’s headline was a cheap shot, which may be why it was reeled in and recast.
Reuters’ report was too credulous; the gold standard for a medical story is a randomized double-blind study published in a peer-reviewed journal, preferably JAMA (Journal of the American Medial Association) or the New England Journal of Medicine. A press release from the company that funded the research doesn’t cut it.
To his credit, the WSJ’s Peter Loftus actually attended the conference where the research was presented. But he seems to have got up on the wrong side of the bed that day. He puts his best negative quote (“The wearable sensors, I think we have a ways to go”) in paragraph 3 and the main positive result (84% confirmed afibs) in paragraph 19. Geesh.
- Apple press release: Stanford Medicine announces results of unprecedented Apple Heart Study
- Stanford press release: Apple Heart Study demonstrates ability of wearable technology to detect atrial fibrillation