New study explores how Apple Watch can help identify worsening heart failure early

Ted Rogers Centre scientific lead and renowned cardiologist Dr. Heather Ross has launched a new clinical study, in collaboration with Apple to test if remote monitoring with Apple Watch can help with early identification of worsening heart failure.

In this study, data collected using an Apple Watch will be compared to data routinely collected from the rigorous physical tests that patients normally undergo, to see if Apple Watch health sensors and features, including the Blood Oxygen app and mobility metrics, can provide early warning for worsening heart failure.

Suitable patients from the heart function program at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, will be asked to participate in the three month active monitoring study, with each patient using an iPhone and Apple Watch Series 6, and a two-year follow up. The study will investigate the ability of patients to perform traditionally clinic-based assessments in the comfort of their own home. All participant data collected during the study will be stored in an encrypted form, and participants have the ability to opt-out at any time.

“We think that biometric data derived from Apple Watch may provide comparable, precise, and accurate measurements of fitness, prognostic markers and early warning signals, compared to traditional diagnostics,” says Dr. Heather Ross, Division Head of Cardiology, at UHN’s Peter Munk Cardiac Centre.

Goal: high-quality care for everyone, anywhere

Combining this new technology with expertise in biomedical science, and leveraging the existing Digital Cardiovascular Health Platform for 8,000 heart failure patients already followed by UHN, should give patients and clinicians an exciting new opportunity to gain more precise, in the moment assessments of heart health.   

“Surfacing heart health insights has played a key role in the evolution of Apple Watch and we’re continually humbled by the responses we hear from users on the impact it has had on their lives,” says Dr. Sumbul Desai, Apple’s vice-president of Health. “We’re thrilled to be collaborating with UHN and Dr. Heather Ross to better understand how the powerful sensors in Apple Watch can potentially help patients better manage heart failure, from the comfort of their own home.” 

It was in Tanzania, on top of Mount Kilimanjaro, that Dr. Ross first glimpsed the future of healthcare. A routine phone call led to her “aha” moment. If she could use her phone from a mountaintop, why couldn’t this technology be used to reach patients who can not always travel to receive quality care? Later experiences with text messaging in Uganda, combined with the experience of traveling the Nahanni River into remote Canadian First Nations communities, further reinforced Dr. Ross’ determination to use technology to solve issues of equity in healthcare.

“My goal is to make high quality care, accessible to everyone, no matter where they are,” says Dr. Ross. “If we can use wearable technology to accurately monitor for essential diagnostics, we can reach all kinds of people, including vulnerable communities who traditionally have been challenged by issues of remote geography or homelessness.”