The article was based on a review published in the science journal Circulation, weighing up the current evidence and exploring the complexities involved in consumer-led screening for atrial fibrillation.
In the article they explore the issues and complexities involved in the use of wearables and other portable consumer devices to screen for atrial fibrillation – an irregular rhythm that can lead to strokes. Opportunistic screening for atrial fibrillation for people 65 years and over is currently recommended by Australian Heart Foundation guidelines.
The authors suggest that wearables have many benefits for consumers, who can record their own heart rhythms whenever they wish. They are also very useful as an ‘event monitor’ for anyone with symptoms. The technology can empower consumers and provide important heart information, but it does have limitations.
“Wearables can be useful for helping people to get an early diagnosis of atrial fibrillation. Some of the devices are very accurate – often over 95%,” said Dr Orchard.
“However, device manufacturers often don’t publish many details about the accuracy and performance of their devices in different populations, and even highly accurate devices, can and do give false positives. You will still need to see a doctor to confirm a diagnosis.”
Dr Orchard also says that many people who buy wearables are younger which is an added complication in determining management.
“We aren’t yet sure about what it means when a young person with few or no risk factors has a short episode of atrial fibrillation. Medical research in this area is still ongoing,” she said.
Overall says Dr Orchard, wearable heart monitoring technology is here to stay. We just have to make sure we understand the benefits and limitations.