Apple and Johnson & Johnson Launch Major Apple Watch Stroke Study

Study will find out if the Apple Watch can help prevent strokes

Why This Matters: Apple’s been pitching the Apple Watch as more than just a watch for years now, adding features like fall detection, noise detection, and ECG. And while there are tales of it saving lives, proactively detecting stroke potential could be medical game changer. Apple and Johnson & Johnson's Heartline Study, which does not require a watch, could help figure that out.

Apple Watch ECG
Apple Watch ECG. Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

Apple and Johnson & Johnson announced a new nationwide heart health study that will use the iPhone, an app, and, most notably, Apple Watch Series 5 to study, in people 65 and over, heart health and Atrial fibrillation, a leading cause of strokes.

The big picture: Apple’s interest in health technology traces back years and this is not Apple’s first heart-related study. It conducted a massive one with Stanford University in 2018 to determine if wearable technology could detect atrial fibrillation. This new study, which takes that proof of concept on the Apple Watch Series 5, will now see if there’s a through line from detection of that heart condition to a sort of wearable or iPhone-based stroke early detection warning system.

By the Numbers

  • 795,000 Suffer strokes each year.
  • 140,000 people die from them each year.
  • Apple has sold over 100 million Apple Watches.

What do we get out of it? This is not a program destined to sell more Apple Watches (at least as part of the study). Participants can choose to participate with just their iPhone (6s or later) and the app (answering various questions over a two-week study period), they can buy an Apple Watch Series 5, use one they already have, or even get a loaner that they must return at the end of the study. Apparently, according to the Heartline Study page, participants can also earn $150 for their participation.

Behind the scenes: The Heartline Study will mix an information engagement program with Apple’s ECG app, which classifies an electrocardiogram as sinus rhythm (normal) or AFib, with the watch’s irregular heart rhythm detection capabilities (which can also indicate AFib). “The Heartline Study will help further understanding of how our technology could both contribute to science and help improve health outcomes, including reducing the risk of stroke,” said Myoung Cha, Apple's Head of Health Strategic Initiatives in a release on the study.

This could be big:Heartline could go down as a landmark clinical trial. We are bringing amazing digital wearable tech and engagement apps for healthcare to patients and doctors," J&J VP of Medical Affairs Dr. Paul Barton told CNN Business

Do we heart this? The full study will last three years, which means it will be a while before any meaningful data appears. While some may see the study as self-serving, there’s no disputing the stroke victim numbers or the potential impact of a wearable device that can help get ahead of a stroke. 

Become an Expert in Apple Watch