Patients and doctors worry about using heart rate tracking technology

Accessories that scan pulse rhythm and inform users when something is not synchronized are being sold by the tool companies, starting with Apple and now Fitbit, which is owned by Google. These products are technical wonders. Most people use sophisticated optical sensors found under the skin to track how blood volume changes, such as currents, and therefore read heartbeats. A small ECG – which captures the electrical activity of the heart – is integrated into other instruments. Both methods can identify abnormal heartbeats, including atrial fibrillation, which affects an estimated 2.7 million Americans and increases the risk of stroke and heart failure. When a person has it, the upper chambers of the heart will beat normally, and the blood will not flow as it should.

However, although the tools are technologically successful, some scientists say that the information made by the devices is not always useful. Notifications from devices are not descriptive surveys. It is an argument, and a consequence, for the health care system. Thousands of people are armed with these devices, and of even a small percentage of those who receive ping, it can mean a lot of maintenance and costs for the system.

“The technology is beyond us,” said Rod Passman, a psychologist at Northwwest University who assisted with a study examining the ability of the Apple Watch to test for high blood pressure. “Our company comes out with these things because they can. Now we are drinking and trying to figure out what to do with this information. ”The rhythm sensors are among the many devices assembled into these wearables. Users can include reading their steps, tracking their sleep, and analyzing their games. Some markets will call 911 if the wearer is in a car accident or in a bad fall.

Those features are meant to enable patients to be protagonists in maintaining their health. During an event touting Fitbit’s atrial fibrillation function, co-founder James Park said it was one of several features of the brand’s fitness tracking team that “enables users seamlessly in health and wellness management.” Wearable atrial fibrillation ping – “test [doctors] did not order, ”said Passman – telling patients there was something that could be irrelevant. In the end, however, any treatment is left to the doctor.

Early visits do not always provide quick answers. To confirm a statement, the psychiatrist dressed patients with clinical-level tests – patch or large follow-up – that were more accurate than wearables. (The Apple Watch, for example, has been deleted by the FDA for “information use only.”) That delay means more time and money, spent on visits to more doctors.

Getting a diagnosis “can be very odyssey,” said Ethan Weiss, an anthropologist at the University of California-San Francisco. Patients may be anxious along the way. Social media forums like Reddit show that many users are wondering whether their watches or doctors are more reliable. “It still bothers me,” one user wrote, even after a doctor told her it was probably better.

Studies of the evolution of anxiety resulting from atrial fibrillation pings are hard to come by. Fitbit received such information, Franesh told KHN, as part of a study submitted to the FDA for the elimination of its device. But the full results of the study – which included data from 455,000 patients – are not yet available.

Diagnosis is not the same as knowing what the best treatment should be. For example, treating otherwise healthy patients with anticoagulants – the standard treatment for atrial fibrillation – may expose them to unnecessary side effects.

According to doctors interviewed by KHN, atrial fibrillation is a widespread condition. Some patients have multiple struggles in a given year and have symptoms such as fatigue or shortness of breath. Some patients do not notice anything.

In the past, prolonged fibrillation would not have been detected, let alone treated. And wearable technology users are healthier and richer than the typical fibrillation patient. A new Apple Watch costs around $ 400; The minimum Fitbit is $ 50. (Industry experts cannot say what type of Fitbit devices will have atrial fibrillation detection services, although they say they are determined to make the technology widely available.)

Northwestern’s Passman considers itself optimistic when it comes to the capabilities of the devices. In an interview – the Apple Watch sports on his wrist – he said the devices could help doctors and patients control conditions and respond quickly when there is a staggering noise. And doctors could use the devices to confirm whether their treatments for atrial fibrillation are working, say cardiologists like Passman.

However, the feature can lead to headaches for cardiologists. “It caused some increased fear, handling phone calls, visits to the office,” Weiss said – and all for an undisclosed benefit.

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