I got the Apple Watch wrong

Sometimes you have to be prepared to put your hand up and say you called something wrong, and I found myself in that place this week. My website report showed a number of hits on a post from early 2015 that I’d actually forgotten I’d written, titled Why I Won’t be Buying the iWatch . Given I’ve been wearing an Apple Watch (which I did personally buy) on a daily basis since late 2016, it’s time to set the record straight.

I suspect the hits on the post came as part of the flurry of activity and excitement in the health arena that accompanied the announcement that the soon to be released 4th gen Apple Watch would include an FDA cleared heart rate monitor function with an ECG.

For the last few years there’s been discussion about when wearables would shift from being viewed as fitness devices to health management tools, and to me this announcement signals that the tipping point has arrived.

The reason I’ve been wearing an Apple Watch since 2016 relates to a project we’re working at Icon. We’re looking at how we can use data available via common wearables to better understand the impact that treatments are having on our patients, not just on their cancer, and how we can better assist them in the management of those impacts.

Our work is focusing on looking at trends rather than absolute quantifications – for example has the person’s activity level decreased dramatically from their norm post their treatment, or whether the amount of time they spend sitting or lying down is increased from their normal. All of these are relatively easy to measure, and provide an ability to send an alert to the care team to check in with the patient and see how they’re feeling.

We’re not operational with this yet, but we’re working on it and while we were working through the design and development, I wanted to make sure I personally had a good sense of the data that can be easily captured, and the type of alerts and notifications that I felt worked and didn’t work – hence the watch purchase.

It’s fair to say I wear it every day, and find it pretty effective. The heart rate monitor is actually one of my favourite things, as my exercise plan involves heart rate training requiring me to spend specific amounts of time in different heart rate zones. The watch and it’s associated app makes this super easy, and allows me to easily report on and manage how I’m going. I’ve turned off a lot of the alerts, and just left the ones that do work for me personally. I still don’t love the aesthetics, but this is one of the few instances where I’m prepared to trade out fashion for functionality.

I’m sure last week’s news on the FDA clearance will be just the start of the range of health management products and applications which we’ll see hit the market. From my perspective anything that helps healthcare providers better understand what is happening in a patient’s life when they are outside of the clinic environment also provides an opportunity to better support them, and that can only be a positive.

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