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Apple VP of Health Dr. Sumbul Desai talks ECG and fall detection, relationship with FDA, more in new interview

It’s clear that Apple has been serious about health over the past several years, especially with devices such as the Apple Watch literally saving lives. Apple CEO Tim Cook has been fairly public about the company wanting to change the world with its health initiatives. Today, Apple VP of Health Dr. Sumbul Desai sat down with MobiHealthNews to talk more about Apple’s foray into health.

When asked about the new ECG feature found in Apple Watch Series 4, Desai says that it’s in a physician’s nature to be concerned about how this will effect the medical community. While customers are loving the new feature, doctors are still trying to figure out how to handle the data coming out of the Apple Watch.

The feedback has been pretty decent so far. Iʼve heard some cardiologists say ‘Yep, I started getting ECGs mailed to me right away.ʼ And their biggest frustration isnʼt around so much getting the ECG, because theyʼve found that helpful, but itʼs that the health systems are still figuring out the right way to handle that type of incoming.

She says that the feedback from customers has been “really amazing” in that users are now discovering that they may have atrial fibrillation (a-fib) and that they are getting treated on an issue that they may have never known about.

Desai was then asked about what Apple is doing for doctors themselves with their Health Records initiative and how features such as the ECG in the Apple Watch and Health Records blend together.

As a physician Iʼll see patients in the ER … and a lot of times the questions we ask are ‘What kind of medications are you on?ʼ … So now to have an area where I can look at all of that is very helpful. Weʼre very early in that journey … but thereʼs a lot of potential there and weʼre really excited about what we can do. And weʼre really excited that the medical community is excited about it.

In terms of ECG and the new fall detection feature on Apple Watch, many users claim that with fall detection specifically, it’s aimed at a much older crowd. Typically within the 65 or 70 years or beyond age group, noting that those types of users aren’t the ones usually buying an Apple Watch.

Naturally, Desai responds saying that Apple builds products for all demographics. But she quickly says that falling is one of the most common reasons people go to the emergency room.

With regards to fall detection, I know that was the immediate place that people took it, but if you look at the stats, falls are one of the most common reasons for people to go into the emergency room across all age groups. So you can imagine, and this has happened to me, going up on your step stool to try to get some flour or sugar, no matter what age group youʼre in, and having a fall. And that happens. And so we really built fall detection for everyone.

When asked about Apple’s relationship with the FDA, Desai says that Apple doesn’t get any special treatment. In fact, she says that Apple was asked really tough questions, yet still had answers for them.

The full interview is an interesting read, be sure to check it out in its entirety here.

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