Some Doctors are Worried About the ECG App in the Apple Watch Series 4

BY Evan Selleck

Published 8 Jan 2019

Data goes a long way, both for companies and individuals, but it looks like some doctors are worried that too much data might not be a good thing.

The Verge took a dive into the ECG app on the Apple Watch Series 4, going to talk to some doctors about the new app on Apple’s smartwatch, and even test the app against a professional EKG machine in a laboratory. The results show that the app on the Apple Watch Series 4 is certainly not up to par with a lab-ready machine, which shouldn’t be too surprising in the slightest.

The report spoke with Dr. Gregory Marcus out of the University of California, San Francisco, and Dr. Seth Landefeld of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The doctors were asked about the positives of an app like this on the Apple Watch, and what downsides might exist because of it.

Dr. Marcus’s concerns revolve around the percentage of people who actually own an Apple Watch Series 4 that would actually benefit from it. Specifically, Dr. Marcus believes that most Series 4 owners are younger individuals who are probably healthy enough and who might not need an ECG app on their smartwatch. Meanwhile, older individuals might not have the watch and therefore won’t actually benefit from the device’s capabilities.

Dr. Marcus believes the ECG app on the newest Apple Watch can make young people worry too much about what’s going on with their heart, and suggests that folks under the age of 65, aside from individuals who have had symptoms related to their heart, should avoid the ECG app altogether:

“If someone is younger than age 65, they don’t have high blood pressure, diabetes, they’ve never had a stroke, they don’t have heart failure, they don’t have other problems with their arteries, in general I would say ignore it in the absence of symptoms.”

Dr. Landefeld agrees with the general idea, saying that the ECG app is not very helpful to folks who don’t have previous symptoms or who are at high-risk, saying there is “no evidence there that the benefits outweigh the harms”, adding that they “recommend against using the ECG screening for people at low-risk for cardiovascular disease”.

These are professionals speaking to the information that they have, and it certainly makes sense in its own right. However, this sounds like a feature that should be available as an option, and therefore just one more tool in a growing toolbox of options. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean that someone has to go out of their way to use it. After you go through the setup process you can forget about it.

And while it might be true that mostly young(er) people are buying the Series 4 compared to the older generations, it still doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the feature. Apple isn’t going to build a smartwatch just for people 65 and older. We have already heard about the ECG app potentially saving one life, and I think that’s a good sign that this is a feature that feels right at home in the Apple Watch — even if someone never actually has to use it.

[via The Verge]