Smartwatches part of 'heath tech revolution' for the National Health Service

But regulations still getting in the way of advanced sensors
NHS eyes smartwatches for med-tech future
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The UK Health Minister has said that smartwatches provide a unique way to spot the early signs of serious diseases like stroke, heart disease and dementia.

Speaking at a joint Vitality John Hancock’s Insurance and Apple event, Matt Hancock said that a “heath tech revolution” was on the way, and called for the NHS to be ready to embrace preventative medical technology.

With smartwatches getting more advanced, they’re opening up opportunities to catch medical issues before they become problematic. The Apple Watch Series 4 debuted ECG monitoring, which is designed to catch atrial fibrillation – a leading cause of strokes in the US. Fitbit has also made strides to detect sleep apnoea via its SP02 sensor, though this is still unused.

“Right now, in Cambridge, we’re on the cusp of sequencing the 100,000th genome, on our way to a target of 5 million genomes. What this means is we will be able to predict who is vulnerable to which disease and how we can prevent it, or best design a drug or a treatment to give them the best possible chance of recovery,” Hancock continued.

But, of course, at this stage, these are just words. There’s no news on the release of the ECG feature for Apple Watch Series 4 in the UK – officially, at least – with some reports indicating the process could take years, given that Apple would have to start its testing from scratch to be compliant. While scrutiny is important for medical tech, it’s going to be slow going until meaningful sensors get ratified by regulators.

Smartwatches part of 'heath tech revolution' for the National Health Service