Why Australia needs heart health features on the local Apple Watch

Demand continues to grow

There is a real desire in Australia for innovative wearables. A recent survey by Ansible showed that almost one in five Australians owns a wearable device, with almost half the respondents indicating they were likely to make a wearable purchase soon.

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Data from research firm, IDC, indicates that the wearables industry has grown 5.5 per cent globally from last year, with consumer demand in Asia/Pacific growing by 14 per cent year over year. All signs point to further growth in our region, especially as you and other wearable manufacturers release innovative new health features.

Australia needs these features

The wellness features on the Apple Watch are necessary in Australia, especially as our population ages and becomes more at-risk for conditions such as Afib. A study by the Medical Journal of Australia estimates that over 600,000 Australians will have Afib by 2034. The report concludes that “the data is indicative of a largely underappreciated AF prevalence in Australia. They mandate a more systematic effort to both understand and respond to an evolving AF burden”.

The last line says it all; we need tools to understand Afib better and learn how we will manage this condition in the future. This is a tool that is available on the Apple Watch and it could provide a critical data point for our healthcare practitioners to leverage.

The US example

Matthew Bardsley, CEO of MedicalDirector.

Matthew Bardsley, CEO of MedicalDirector.

Photo: Supplied

Look at what you’ve already done in the US. Dr Scott Gottlieb, FDA commissioner, has extolled the virtues of the new health features on the Watch, commenting that “due to the great promise of these technologies and the rapid pace of change, the FDA is working to modernise our regulatory approach to better enable and more efficiently spur innovation in this novel area to improve the health and quality of life of consumers and patients.”

This clearly demonstrates how you are ready, willing and able to move the lines of healthcare, provided collaboration occurs with the relevant health industry decision makers.

We are ready for collaboration

Australia’s health system is ranked second best in the developed world by the Commonwealth Fund in the US, with Australia ranking first for “Health Care Outcomes” and “Administrative Efficiency”. And it’s clear that we are ready to embrace the latest health innovations to enable better care.

The new Apple Watch offers a more general health-conscious approach to wearable technology, and will help consumers better manage their health and have more data available on hand. However, the real value of the Apple Watch, and similar wearables, lies in its ability to aid the consumer when they transition from a “consumer” to “patient” and back again.

The patient side of things is where the vital role of our doctors, nurses and healthcare service providers comes into play. They are the ones who will unleash the real potential of consumer wearables, as they use features like the ECG as another data point to enable ideal moments of care.

As more and more of our doctors move their operations to the cloud and utilise new technology, why not lead the way into the future of wearable wellness? Through collaboration and innovation, we can all work together to determine the best way to bring the exciting health features found on the Watch Series 4 to meet the needs of healthcare professionals and patients for now, and in the future.

Matthew Bardsley is CEO of MedicalDirector, a provider of software to almost half of Australian GPs.

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