Apple Watch's Kardia Band: A Medical-Grade Heart Monitor

Soon you might be able to add a little additional functionality to your Apple Watch through the addition of a new watch band.

Called the Kardia Band, the Apple Watch band works as a medical-grade EKG reader. When attached to your Apple Watch, the band is capable of recording a single-lead EKG by just pressing a sensor on the band. Information about that scan is then transmitted to an app on your iPhone where you can review it or share the results with others.

“Kardia Band for Apple Watch represents both the future of proactive heart health and the introduction of the Wearable MedTech category,” said Vic Gundotra, chief executive officer of AliveCor. “These combined technologies give us the ability to deliver personal reports that provide analysis, insights and actionable advice for the patient and their doctor.”

Gundora’s name might sound familiar. He previously worked at Google as the head of Google+. He joined the company behind the band, AliveCor, in November of last year. 

Besides simply recording an EKG, the watch band also has an Atrial Fibrillation Detector. That detector uses the apps automated analysis process to detect the presence of atrial fibrillation in an EKG. Atrial Fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia and is the leading cause of strikes. Additionally, the Apple Watch band has a Normal Detector, which determines whether your heart rate and rhythm are normal, as well as a detector that suggests you give the EKG another try if your results are a little wonky.

“The personal, discrete Kardia Band is a perfect fit for Apple Watch. It allows patients to easily measure and record their heart rhythm in real time. This can provide patients with a sense of control—which is vitally important to successful patient engagement in the treatment of chronic disease,” said Kevin R. Campbell, MD, FACC, North Carolina Heart and Vascular UNC Healthcare, clinical cardiac electrophysiology assistant professor, UNC Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology.

For now, the Watch band is still seeking FDA approval. The company has previously released a similar smartphone sensor that was able to acquire FDA approval, so the track record is there for success with this as well. If it does get FDA approval, it will potentially be the first Apple Watch accessory to do so.

Currently, there is no release date or pricing information available for the Apple Watch band.

Karia isn’t the only way the Apple Watch is being used in medical situations. Cancer patients in Camden, New Jersey are currently using the Apple Watch as part of their cancer treatment. While not used specifically as a medical monitoring device, the program allows doctors to stay connected to patients while they’re undergoing treatment. That means they can quickly check on a patient’s general physical condition. Through an additional app, they’re also able to get a feel for a patient’s mental condition through a small series of questions. All that gives doctors a good picture of how a patient is doing overall, and how he or she is being affected by a particular treatment.

Another app called Epi Watch offers a way for epilepsy patients to track how the disease affects them in the hopes of potentially improving their treatments and allowing doctors to gain a better understanding of the disease.

The Epi Watch study, which is being conducted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has patients take daily surveys and make journal entries about their disease and tries to get them to document when they have seizures and what happens to their body prior to one come on. Thanks to the Apple Watch’s heart rate monitor, accelerometer, and gyroscope, researchers will be able to track changes in heart rate as well as body movement in patients, ultimately gaining a better understanding of the disease.