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Will the Apple Watch affect health and hearts?

Apple unveiled the Apple Watch wearable tech and two new iPhones, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, on September 9. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A few months ago, Impatient readers told us they love their Fitbits.

"I love my Fitbit and so do my dogs, who get more and longer walks so I reach my 10,000-15,000 steps daily," Toronto Walker commented on this blog.

Will the new Apple Watch – revealed last week – have the same impact on people's health and hearts?

The Features

The watch – announced with a $349 price tag – will be customizable, and available in different colors, sizes, body types and bands, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

Reporters Benny Evangelista and Stephanie M. Lee explain the Apple Watch's health-focused features:

Coupled with the accelerometer and GPS sensor of the required iPhone, the Watch can provide real-time feedback of all physical movements, such as cycling, sitting and standing. Over time, it's supposed to suggest personalized daily fitness goals.

Those features, available through the new apps Fitness and Workout, could be useful because people need instant and specific advice, not just raw data, to improve their health, said Malay Gandhi, managing director of Rock Health, a San Francisco accelerator that seeds digital health startups.

The Impact

Evangelista and Lee write that the Apple Watch could make wearable technology a mainstream accessory, even squeezing the beloved Fitbit, as well as Jawbone and other fitness trackers, out of the market.

But as these devices become more common, will they transform health care?

On the Wall Street Journal blog CIO Journal, reporter Clint Boulton offers some very cool glimpses into how different health systems hope to utilize data collected through the Apple Watch.

He writes that Christiana Care Health System, which serves the Mid-Atlantic region:

"…will likely use the Apple Watch to improve care for patients with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, says CIO Randy Gaboriault, who sees the device streaming information about a wearer's blood sugar levels to the hospital's systems. When used in tandem with predictive analytics software, the data could help Christiana Care determine the chances of a patient being admitted to care."

Boulton writes the Apple Watch could help pharmaceutical companies determine whether patients are taking their medications, noting that patients who neglect to take crucial medication sometimes end up in the emergency room.

He spoke with Behrooz Najafi, CIO of Questcor Pharmaceuticals Inc., who said that:

"…software running on the Apple Watch could track a patient's health vitals, flagging clinicians when signs fall below normal, which could suggest that the patient has skipped their medications."

Room for Caution

Dan Diamond, of the Daily Briefing Blog, says people should be cautious about proclaiming the Apple Watch will revolutionize healthcare.

He writes that Apple's likely still working on the technology that could truly make this device transformative:

For example, if the Apple Watch somehow succeeds at "listening" to blood flow in order to predict heart attacks—just one of the most exciting rumors about the new device. Or if Apple has devised a way to non-invasively measure blood glucose levels, another highly touted potential application for the device.

But barring a massive surprise, Apple's Watch likely won't debut packaged with any of its most anticipated technologies. Why not? Bringing a new clinical breakthrough to market would almost certainly require FDA approval and clinical trials … which we've heard nothing about yet."

Also, Diamond writes, consumers have generally grown weary of their wearable technologies. But "it's dangerous to bet against Apple," he adds. "The company made smartphones hot and tablets cool, even when it seemed like the hype outpaced reality."

Are you excited about the Apple Watch? Do you already wear a mobile activity tracker such as Fitbit, Jawbone or some other device? If so, how has it affected your health? Tell us about it in the comments section below, or e-mail us at Impatient@scpr.org.