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

But regulations still getting in the way of advanced sensors
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

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

TAGGED Smartwatches

How we test

James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

Related stories