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Health Tech

Apple Watch has new features to detect heart problems, monitor falls

12/07/2018

(Kaiser Health News) – For more than a decade, the latest Apple products have been the annual must-have holiday gift for the tech-savvy. That raises the question: Is the newest Apple Watch on your list — either to give or receive — this year?

At first glance, the watch appears to be an ideal present for Apple’s most familiar market: the hip early adopters. Its promotional website is full of svelte young people stretching into yoga poses, kickboxing and playing basketball.

But when Apple unveiled its latest model in September — the Series 4, which starts at $399 — it was clear it was expanding its target audience. This Apple Watch includes new features designed to detect falls and heart problems. With descriptions like “part guardian, part guru” and “designed to improve your health … and powerful enough to protect it,” the tech giant signaled its move toward preventive health and a much wider demographic.

“The health care market is obviously important to Apple,” Andy Hargreaves, an Apple analyst with KeyBanc Capital Markets, wrote in an email. The fall prevention and electrocardiogram apps are a “play to sell people more stuff” and bring health-monitoring apps beyond just “fitness people” to baby boomers who want to keep themselves and their parents healthy, he added.

This watch could be a perfect present for those older people, said Laura Martin, a senior analyst with Needham. “People who wore watches their whole lives, plus fall monitoring?” Martin said. “Voilà! It creates another on-ramp for another consumer in the Apple ecosystem.”

The Inner Workings

The fall-monitoring app uses sensors in the watchband, which are automatically enabled for people 65 and older after they input their age. These sensors track and record the user’s movements, and note if the wearer’s gait becomes unsteady.

If a fall is detected, the watch sends its wearer a notification. If the wearer doesn’t respond within a minute by tapping a button on the watch to deactivate this signal, emergency services will be alerted that the wearer needs help.

That minute also gives the wearer time to prevent false alarms, such as a dropped watch.

Many geriatricians and medical experts agree that this app could help older consumers.

Falls can cause fractured hips and head injuries, but even fear of falling can prevent older people from living on their own or participating in activities.

Fall deaths in the U.S. increased 30 percent for older adults in the past decade, and 3 million older people go to the emergency room for fall injuries each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read the full story at khn.com


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