Can we trust wearables to watch our hearts?

“Carrying a laptop does not do it for you. But it can really help you understand how much physical activity you do so you can compare your activity levels with recommendations,” she said.

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“And it’s really good to help you realize the days when you really do not do much at all. People who have low activity levels lower their expectations so that they may think their activity levels are reasonable even if they are in the adult population. in fact, would be quite low. “

A major problem with the medical properties of watches was the context, said Professor Maher. It was no good to bombard people with data about their hearts if they could not find out if it was a cause for concern or what action they would take from it. Interface changes that emphasize long-term tracking, rather than worrying about numbers going up or down from day to day, were a good start.

“When the portable products go further into this type of territory, they will struggle with how to make the results interpretable for someone who does not have a medical background,” she said, adding that doctors themselves were increasingly open to looking at data that collected by patients’ portable devices.

“Some GPs really accept it. At present, they often rely only on patients self-reporting what they have done, which depends on the patient’s memory and ability to describe their lifestyle over a long period of time.”

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While medical features are often found on premium and more expensive wearables, the latest example is a $ 140 budget unit that offers the most basic smartwatch features (like workout, step and sleep tracking, plus phone alerts), along with high-end medical artery analysis technique.

TicWatch GTH Pro is the result of a partnership between Google-backed Chinese company Mobvoi and ASX-listed health technology company CardieX. It is the first watch to have the “Arty” platform, which is customized from SphygmoCor; a generally approved and non-invasive blood pressure solution provided by CardieX’s subsidiary ATCOR to researchers and clinics.

“We basically give access to what has been an older medical IP to the consumer about their vascular health, their arterial health,” says Mark Gorelick, CardieX’s product manager.

Mr Gorelick said the company raised issues of accuracy by including a second PPG (photoplethysmography) sensor on the side of the watch. While most devices have one on the underside for taking heart readings through the wrist (and GTH Pro has one there as well), having consumers place their finger on the side sensor provides more useful and detailed information.

“To be honest [a wrist sensor] becomes more of a top detector. You can get one or two or three features [per beat]. For a stronger pulse wave analysis that measures arterial properties, we want to measure a whole lot of points along that pulse wave, ”he said.

“If you make a change for the better in your lifestyle, we will be able to pick them up directly from a measurement of what is happening at your heart level. Not as a kind of indifferent proxy that many other people have created in the portable industry.”

Mr Gorelick said CardieX’s platform was designed to track people’s heart health for weeks and months to show the effect of their life choices on arterial stiffness, exercise capacity and heart stress. He agreed that portable monitors should not replace proper medical tests, but said that a person who has sustained data on how their heart is performing was a positive thing, even if it worried them.

“Someone who gets consistently low Arty health parameters should be a little worried and should take a step towards improvement. Maybe they have a poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, very stressful job, and this is the first time they are looking at their heart. It should be a bit of an alarm clock, he said.

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