Apple Says It’s “Excited” to Bring ECG App, New Heart Features to Canada

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With today’s release of iOS 12.4 and watchOS 5.3, Apple has finally released the ECG app and irregular rhythm notifications in Canada.

Apple said it “has secured a Medical Device License from Health Canada for the ECG app and the irregular rhythm notification, making the features available directly to consumers.” Irregular heart rhythms are checked in the background and will notify Apple Watch users if the rhythm appears to be atrial fibrillation (AFib).

iPhone in Canada reported Health Canada had approved Apple’s ECG app and irregular rhythm notification back in May.

The ECG app with watchOS 5.3 will allow Apple Watch Series 4 customers perform an ECG (electrocardiogram) in just 30 seconds.

“When left untreated, AFib is one of the leading conditions that can result in stroke, the second most common cause of death around the world,” explains Apple. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, AFib is estimated to affect nearly 350,000 Canadians, while also causes 33% of all strokes over the age of 60.

“We’ve seen the ECG App and irregular rhythm notifications on Apple Watch have meaningful impact on our customers across the United States, Europe and Hong Kong,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, in an issued statement. “We are excited to bring these features to customers in Canada, giving them access to empowering information about their heart health.”

“We are confident in the ability of these features to help users have more informed conversations with their physicians,” said Sumbul Desai, MD, Apple’s vice president of Health. “With the ECG app and irregular rhythm notification feature, customers can now better understand aspects of their heart health in a more meaningful way.”

The ECG app performs an ECG with new electrodes built into the back of the Apple Watch Series 4 and Digital Crown. Users just touch the Digital Crown for 30 seconds to get an ECG that will be classified as AFib, sinus rhythm or inconclusive. All readings are stored within the Health app on iPhone and a PDF can be easily shared with your doctor.

With irregular heart rhythms, the feature is available for Apple Watch Series 1 or later. The feature will check a user’s heart rhythm in the background and notify “if an irregular rhythm is detected on five rhythm checks over a minimum of 65 minutes,” explains Apple.

“Being able to use wearables, such as Apple Watch, to track how patients are doing in the moment, in between their episodes of care, has the potential, though not yet realized, to transform healthcare,” said Heather Ross, MD, head of Cardiology at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, in a statement. “Early identification of warning signs may allow intervention prior to the development of symptoms or complications, ideally resulting in a reduction of hospitalization or disability. Engaging and motivating patients to follow their heart health and advocate for their care is critical for disease prevention.”

Apple says the ECG app and its ability to determine AFib and sinus rhythm was validated in a clinical trial of about 600 participants. The study, which put the Apple Watch Series 4 EGC against a “gold standard 12-lead ECG by a cardiologist”, compared both results and saw ECG on Apple Watch to show 98.3% sensitivity in classifying AFib and 99.6% in classifying sinus rhythm in classifiable recordings. The study saw 87.8% of ECG app recordings being able to be classified.

You can download watchOS 5.3 today by launching the Watch app and going to General > Software Update. Your iPhone will require updating to iOS 12.4 first.