I’m a Paramedic: Here’s How the Apple Watch Series 4 Will and Won’t Save Lives


(Rich Mogull) #1

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2018/10/03/im-a-paramedic-heres-how-the-apple-watch-series-4-will-and-wont-save-lives/

The Apple Watch Series 4 promises to detect falls, identify atrial fibrillation, and let wearers take electrocardiograms on demand. Rich Mogull draws on his paramedic training to evaluate how effective each of these technologies is likely to be.


(Steve Werner) #2

Great article, Rich!


(mpainesyd) #3

Thank you for that concise and frank description.

My understanding is that most of these functions are available on ealrlier watches (I have a series 3) and that Series 4 adds the basic ECG function.


(Felix) #4

@ “… make sure they wear it in the shower, when they’re most likely to have an accident. Yes, it’s sufficiently waterproof.”

I was in an Apple Store last weekend sitting at a table waiting my turn with an Apple Genius and overheard one of the Apple techs tell a customer he didn’t recommend showering with the watch on because soap, conditioner and shampoo used when showering deteriorates the watch seals and speaker membrane over time.

In retrospect, I don’t know if the tech was talking about the new AW 4 or a previous generation.

Does Apple have anything formally to say on the subject or was this just one tech’s opinion?


(Doug Miller) #5

Formally. See https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT205000 (also true for S4.)


(Doug Miller) #6

I might argue, however, that if somebody is susceptible to a dangerous fall in the shower that taking the risk that soaps might damage the waterproofing may be worthwhile. Also, AppleCare+ covers up to two incidents of water damage like that with a reasonable deductible.


(Felix) #7

Excellent points, Doug. And thanks for Apple’s link on the subject.


(Adam Engst) #8

2 posts were split to a new topic: Mojave: System Language vs Format Language


(michaelcollins) #9

I was knocked off my bike while mountain biking in France - went right over my handlebars. Ugly crash and the Apple watch 4 immediately recognized the crash and kicked into action. I was scraped but nothing serious, but I bought the watch for exactly this feature and it worked perfectly. I was able to stop the Emergency calls.

Great that it works so well. Hopefully you won’t need to discover this like i did…


(David) #10

As a family doc, I sometimes see patients who experience palpitations - an unusual sensation of feeling your heart beat. Separating those patients, for example, who “feel” their heart rate is beating rapidly from those who really do have a rapid rate is not always easy. Sometimes the patient doesn’t count the rate properly, can’t tell if it is regular, etc. If the Apple Watch could provide a reasonable single lead ECG (rhythm strip) for me to review, it would be very useful. The patient might be able to say “What do you think of this, doc?” on their first visit and enable me to accelerate the process of getting the right tests done more quickly.


(Ronjohnstone) #11

Apple is missing a logical expansion of their medical capabilities by not venturing into aiding hearing. They have earbuds, they have microphones and they have sophisticated electronics. Why not utilize them to capture nearby speech, filter it and transmit to the earbuds so one who is hearing impaired will be able to better understand?


(Adam Engst) #12

There is a Live Listen feature for the AirPods. I don’t know how much filtering it does.


(joe68) #13

The fall detection for Apple Watch is nowhere near being accurate it will only get a lot of false readings,perfect example… The watch itself is triggered more by a solid impact from the accelerometer,case in point…, I could simply punch open a box, slam my hand hard on a table and it would trigger.I have even had on a couple of occasions had the watch off and had dropped it on the countertop,it would still register as a fall. The most disheartening was when I actually fell out of a tree putting Halloween decorations up three days ago, I fell 15 feet and the watch never registered the impact.Now whether this watch has an altimeter in it or not I have no idea but for it not to be able to register that I just droped 15 feet in 1 second regardless of how hard the impact was to the watch would be a main cause of concern .To be able to supposedly register a fall without just a simple hard impact it should also detect from what height you are at to what height the impact actually took place and this watch obviously does not do it.Four days prior to this incident I had taken the Watch over to the Apple Store to get it checked for poor battery life,the test came back clean.They also suggested that I re pair the watch (which I also did that same day)So obviously the watch is in perfect working order.


(joe68) #14

It’s not actually that it deteriorates the membrane of the seal ,which eventually it would do regardless whether soap, chlorine, salt water… ECT but one of the main reasons they suggest that you don’t do that is that it will screw up the speakers with just all the extra soap film that would build up on them…Like when you have a lot of soap film on your shower walls and doors if you don’t clean it after a period of time


(Adam Engst) #15

That’s really interesting—everything I’ve heard has said that the Series 4 knows to enable fall detection only when you’re wearing the watch and when you trip or slip in certain ways. Joanna Stern’s video even showed some of the actions that didn’t trigger fall detection.


(Doug Miller) #16

I’ve seen a few anecdotal reports of false positive fall detections on reddit and a few forums that I follow. But I’ve also seen (I don’t have an S4 myself) that you get a warning when you turn on the feature that you may trigger false alerts from certain sports or if you are an active person. Fall detection is default only for people 65 and older, and I am thinking that only somebody in that age group, or who truly is susceptible to falls because of health issues, should have the feature turned on.

By the way, a good post on the iMore forums by somebody whose wife had a false alarm, following up with some information from Apple support about how the fall detection feature works: https://forums.imore.com/showthread.php?t=407286&p=3099303&viewfull=1#post3099303


(joe68) #17

That is not necessarily true, just because someone is over The age of 65 would benefit from this feature. I do electrical work and also work as a personal trainer “yes I know Polar opposite’s… LOL”. I’m on a ladder continuously and as well have taken my series of tumbles …happy to say nothing that serious. Anyone can benefit from having this feature, but I guess only the more active would benefit from this, if you’re a pencil pusher and sit behind a desk for most of your day and I can see why this would not be necessary for you.If they would just do further testing on it because obviously it’s nowhere near accurate.As for that article that you have sent a link to,unfortunately that’s pretty much common knowledge that anyone and their mother-in-law can look up on the Internet… We need the meat and potatoes version to find out how this exactly works and the tech support at Apple didn’t know their head from a hole in the ground, I spent at least a half hour with these people and they knew nothing short of what they were reading off the Internet.


(Paul Chernoff) #18

It is important to remember that the watch calls for help only if the person stops moving. In the case of a false positive the person is very likely to keep moving and there is no reason for the watch to send out an alarm. So I don’t think the false positives will create a problem, though we want as few false positives as possible.

But every time you change things to remove a false positive you are risking introducing a false negative. This seems to be the story of anti-virus software.


(joe68) #19

Anti virus soft wear???Ok… I’ll bite,what dose that have anything to do with it not picking up a fall?..it’s a matter of updating softwear to different specks and re training it.


(Alan Forkosh) #20

Yesterday evening my Apple Watch Series ‘detected’ a fall. At the time, I was sitting on my sofa, watching a TV show with my left (watch) arm resting on the top of the back of the sofa. No part of me had moved suddenly for several minutes. Anyway, I felt an unfamiliar vibration from the watch and looked at it to check it. I saw the 3 choices available and quickly selected the ‘I did not fall’ response.