An Orange County cardiologist is warning Apple Watch users to be careful when using the wearable fitness tracker’s new electrocardiogram (ECG) app, which Apple released on Dec. 6th.
Dr. Brian Kolski said he was woken up in the middle of the night last week when one of his patients called him, panicked. The patient had looked at an ECG reading on his Apple Watch and believed something was wrong.
Kolski Added: "He texted me the strip and it was completely normal. This was a healthy 45-year-old man who was playing around on his watch and went into a major panic."
Since Apple unveiled this new electrocardiogram app last week, Kolski has received at least 20 calls and e-mails from panicked patients who thought they were having atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeat. Almost all of those cases were false alarms or inconclusive, he said.
You have to Read the Fine Print
An electrocardiogram, commonly known as an ECG or EKG, is a test that records the timing and strength of the electrical signals that make the heart beat. This test could provide insights about irregularities in heart rhythm.
Apple’s ECG app enables users to take simple 30-minute ECG readings. The results appear on screen and a user can forward the ECG result in PDF format to his or her doctor if there is a concern.
Kolski says Apple should have released this app "in a more responsible manner" by telling people how to use it and interpret the results. He says the watch, which is mostly a fitness tracker, should not be counted on for medical diagnosis.
An Apple spokesperson said the company does provide guidance to customers who want to use the app, on its website.
But, Kolski says, very few users will actually read information posted online. He has also seen cases where patients with heart conditions have misread the watch.
One of his patients, an airline pilot with a congenital heart condition, called Kolski in a panic because his baseline reading showed an abnormality.
Yet Kolski noted "That has always been his baseline because of his congenital issue. But he didn’t know that and grew concerned." You could more on this in The Orange County Register report here. The Orange County Register is a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper
While the benefits of the new health features for Apple Watch are dramatic in the videos to be sure, Dr. Brian Kolski's testimony that he has received 20 panic messages from his patients since December 6th is staggering. If that rate were to continue, it would mean more Apple Watch 4 users will be panicking than actually be helped.
The more dramatic Apple makes their testimonial videos, the more people will trust Apple Watch and go into a panic at every notice. This could be a problem if the panic leads to heart attacks or other incidents. I'm sure ambulance chasing lawyers are already dreaming up schemes of how to sue Apple over this new trend of panicky Apple Watch users.
Whether this issue will escalate or de-escalate in the coming months is unknown. Yet by confronting this issue head-on by getting this news out to Apple Watch 4 community loud and clear should help users put any watch notices into perspective.
It sounds that there will, by far, be more false readings than actual events leading to a serious problem as Apple slowly advances the technology to produce more accurate results. Concern is one thing and panicking is a whole different situation.