Johnson & Johnson Partners with Apple to Study Heart Irregularities with Apple Watch

Johnson & Johnson announced this week that they will be conducting a clinical study with Apple that will test the Apple Watch’s ability to detect cardiac irregularities. The aim is to test how well the wearable heart monitor identifies these abnormalities before life-threatening events occur.

Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a branch of J&J’s research and development will be focusing on the work with Apple. J&J’s heart health monitoring app will be used in concert with the watch’s ECG sensors. This app will detect irregular heart rhythms in people with atrial fibrillation, a heart arrhythmia that commonly goes unnoticed and causes poor blood flow.

For research purposes, Apple has given scientists access to their ResearchKit and CareKit systems to let companies like J&J create apps that run and track their own trials using the Apple Watch. Apple launched its own study with Stanford University in 2017 to test the watch’s efficacy in detecting irregular heartbeats. This was a particularly large study, with over 400,000 people partaking. The Apple Watch Series 4 was the first to launch the ECG app to consumers who wanted to monitor their heart health.

J&J noted that the study will not only test the Apple Watch’s ability to detect irregularities, but will show which medications are effective for patients as well.

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“If people can get feedback from this technology and take appropriate care, we hope this study would drive down the risk of stroke,” said study lead Dr. Paul Burton, J&J’s vice president of medical affairs. “That will really move the needle in healthcare delivery today.”

The research program will be available to US citizens of age 65 or older and will be conducted sometime in 2019, as per J&J. Dr. Burton claimed that more details were emerge in the next coming months. J&J also noted that the company and Apple will not have any access to patient identification through the study, and that healthcare systems and insurers will not either.

“One of the reasons we partnered with Apple is because of their unparalleled data privacy and security capabilities. All participants will be asked to sign an informed consent,” claimed a J&J spokeswoman.

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Additionally, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook recently revealed plans to announce additions to their services in 2019.

“I believe, if you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, ‘What was Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind?’ it will be about health,” said Cook Mad Money. “We are taking what has been with the institution and empowering the individual to manage their health. And we’re just at the front end of this.”

Atrial fibrillation is a dangerous condition that affects up to 2.7 to 6.1 million people according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wearable technologies like the Apple Watch offer a convenient means of detecting such conditions, and the company hopes to show its utility in this study.

“Through Apple Watch people have been able to learn more about their heart health, including discovering they have AFib,” said Jeff Williams, chief operating officer of Apple. “This kind of information empowers customers to follow up with the right treatment or even better, implement healthy habits aimed at prevention.”

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Fierce BioTech