Cupertino, CA— Last Friday, Apple released its redesigned Watch, and there’s a lot more to catch the eye of our industry than just a 30% larger display. In addition to the activity, fitness and health tracking features that have been rolled out over the previous three generations, five key features stand out for the Series 4:

  • FDA Cleared Class 2 Medical Device— While this status falls short of “FDA Approval,” many reporters and industry experts see it as a substantial step towards Apple’s goal of making the Watch an integral part of improving everyday health. According to CEO Tim Cook, “the holy grail of the Watch is being able to monitor more and more of what's going on in the body"—and the Series 4 brings his vision one step closer to reality. 
  • Heart Rhythm Detection and Low Heart Rate Alert— According to Apple, Irregular heart rhythms (known as arrhythmias) and unusually high or low heart rates could be signs of a serious condition. But many people don’t recognize the symptoms, so the underlying causes often go undiagnosed. Apple Watch Series 4 checks your heart and alerts you to these irregularities — so you can take action and consult your doctor.
  • Personal Electrocardiogram (ECG) Monitoring— Embedding an ECG into the Watch will allow patients living with heart disease to capture more data, more often, in more natural settings and share directly with their HCPs. 
  • Fall Detection Series 4 includes a new gyroscope, accelerometer and more sensors and doodads than ever before, and its new software enables it to detect and intervene in critical health moments like never before. For example, when this Watch detects a user has fallen, a hard fall alert appears on the screen, giving the option of easily initiating a call to 911 or emergency contacts.
  • Emergency SOS— If the Watch detects a major event like a fall as above and recognizes that the wearer is unmoving or unresponsive after 60 seconds, it automatically informs the nearest emergency services, sharing your precise location thanks to its embedded GPS. 

Why This Matters

While the Apple Watch Series 4 is far from the first wearable to received FDA clearance, its combination of ubiquity and an ever-expanding suite of health tools position it in a class of its own for transforming the everyday lives of patients and providers worldwide. And when you combine its new features with the implications of other strategic moves the company has made in the healthcare space—from making electronic health records personally portable to its Researchkit and Carekit offerings—this new Watch may be the next [small and sleek] stone to send ripples through the healthcare space. 

About the Author:

Drew Beck has spent his entire career in healthcare — from direct patient care as an EMT in college to countless roles in pharma sales and global marketing for leading life science companies including Eli Lilly & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline. He is currently a leader on the Syneos Health Insights & Innovation team, a group charged with leveraging deep expertise in virtual collaboration, behavioral science, trends-based-innovation, custom research and global marketing insights.