Study Shows Certain Health Conditions Can be Detected Through Wearables

Today’s fast-paced world allows little time for making the average appointment for a check-up at the doctor’s office; making time to schedule an appointment for certain procedures or testing can be nearly impossible.  These types of diagnostic testing for certain health concerns, such as sleep apnea and hypertension, can take anywhere from several hours to spending the night in conducting a sleep study.  However, a recent study showed that certain health conditions can be detected using wearables.

Articles have been popping up as of late that cite how wearables, such as the Apple Watch, has helped users keep track of their health, such as with an individual’s heart rate and cardiovascular workout sessions; this is accomplished through sensors within the device and utilizing health apps. 

The study that was cited on Tuesday claims that wearables can help a user accurately detect health conditions, such as sleep apnea and hypertension, without having to undergo the traditional testing of an overnight study or in a doctor’s office.  This means that people can now keep track of certain health issues during their time without having to sacrifice time and money.


What is a Wearable?

According to webopedia, wearable technology, also known as wearable gadgets, belongs in a category of technology devices that a user can wear and usually includes information that tracks the wearer’s fitness and health.  There are other tech gadgets that can be worn that contain tiny motion sensors that sync with mobile devices and can take photos.

While many customers are familiar with the Apple Watch and Fitbit devices, other competitors make similar devices that are not as expensive and can sync with Android and Apple devices.  However, I can tell you from personal experience that though these less expensive devices seem to mimic many of the functions of their expensive competitors, problems tend to occur when updates to the Operating Systems of Apple and Android roll out. 

Now that a basic understanding of what a wearable is, let us discuss this study that can change how people monitor and diagnose certain health conditions.


Wearable Study Suggests New Way of Monitoring Health Conditions

Writer Dave Mark from The Loop had his article posted on Tuesday that talks about a possible change coming over the horizon from traditional testing of health conditions to testing in a less expensive and more comfortable setting.  Mark describes the process a patient usually undergoes when typically diagnosing sleep apnea, such as having to stay overnight within a sleep center while being connected to an array of sensors; this process helps to track and detect the patient’s breathing and sleeping patterns.  This process is uncomfortable to the individual being tested as well as being expensive; some health insurances in the United States do not always cover the cost of the study.


According to his article, the study originated from a health startup Cardiogram and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF).  The purpose of the study was to test if wearables that includes Fitbit and the Apple Watch could accurately detect conditions that were common but serious like sleep apnea and hypertension.  Their conclusion states that wearables made surprisingly good predictions of sleep apnea and hypertension using only inputs of step count and heart rate.


Wearables are Only Half of the Equation

Although this study shows promise for wearables to possibly replace certain diagnostic procedures that are time-consuming, uncomfortable and can be expensive; writer Husain Sumra from says that these devices need to be paired with an AI neural network to achieve the best predictions. The AI neural network described in the article is known as DeepHeart and was used in the study to analyze boring, regular wearable data recorded in a week. The result was being able to detect in participants an accuracy rate of 82% on detecting hypertension and 90% on sleep apnea.

While the study isn’t suggesting people should rely more on using wearables than traditional testing methods when trying to predict health conditions such as sleep apnea and hypertension.  However, the results do suggest additional studies should be conducted to see if wearables can be the better option in monitoring certain health concerns instead of having to sacrifice time and expenses that occur when using traditional testing methods.