11-apple-watch-series-4-larger-44mmThe Apple Watch’s EKG function is being used in a research study.
Sarah Tew/CNET

The Apple Watch immediately created a buzz with its health applications, and now it’s going to be used for research that could help save lives.

A study will investigate whether an app from Johnson & Johnson can be used with the Watch’s irregular rhythm notifications and built-in electrocardiogram feature to more quickly diagnose atrial fibrillation (AFib), the pharmaceutical giant said in a release Thursday.

AFib, a type of abnormal heart rhythm, can lead to strokes and heart failure. It’s responsible for approximately 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations each year in the US alone.

The study, led by Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals, will look at the Watch’s impact on early AFib detection and diagnosis in a “pragmatic randomized” group of people over 65. It’ll take place in the US only, starting toward the end of 2019.

“Based on the insights generated through this research program, we may be able to develop new ways to detect other health conditions earlier in the future that also exhibit measurable physiological symptoms,”  said Paul Stoffels, Johnson & Johnson’s chief scientific officer, in the release.

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Jeff Williams, Apple’s COO, highlighted the Watch’s ability to teach people more about their heart health.

“This kind of information empowers customers to follow up with the right treatment or even better, implement healthy habits aimed at prevention,” he said.

This announcement follows a Wednesday report that Apple is working with private Medicare health plans to subsidize the Apple Watch for seniors. The Series 3 starts at $279, while the Series 4 (which has fall detection and the EKG feature) starts at $399.

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