Apple Watch Heart Monitor Reporting Too Many False Positives Finds Study

According to a new study published earlier this week in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, only 10% of users who saw a doctor upon receiving an abnormal pulse alert from the Apple Watch heart monitor were eventually diagnosed with a heart problem (via The Verge).


The Apple Watch abnormal pulse detection feature has been designed to address asymptomatic or silent atrial fibrillation, which is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, affecting over 30 million people worldwide.

However, Assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and study author Heather Heaton said the finding shows that at-home health monitoring devices can lead to over-utilization of the health care system, which may be expensive for patients and for the system as a whole.

“They found records of 264 patients who said their Apple Watches flagged a concerning heart rhythm. Of that group, 41 explicitly mentioned getting an alert from their watch. Half of the patients already had a cardiac diagnosis, including 58 who’d been previously diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. About two-thirds had symptoms, including lightheadedness or chest pain.”

Only 30 patients in the study got a cardiac diagnosis after their doctors visit. The study concluded that most of the concerning heart monitor data were probably false positives.

“It is hard for a user to ignore an alert that they could have a serious medical condition,” said Kirk Wyatt, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Mayo Clinic. “These types of products blur the line between rigorously-studied medical devices and wellness tools.”

You can read the study’s findings in detail on the source page.