Johnson & Johnson study to use Apple Watch in effort to improve atrial fibrillation outcomes

Johnson & Johnson announced Thursday that its Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit entered into a research collaboration with Apple to investigate whether a new app-based heart health programme can accelerate the diagnosis and improve health outcomes of people with atrial fibrillation (AF). The programme will use an app from Johnson & Johnson in combination with the Apple Watch electrocardiogram (ECG) app and irregular rhythm notifications.

Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson, remarked "we're excited about the potential of common, wearable technology to aid in the earlier detection and prevention of a frequent cause of stroke." He added that "based on the insights generated through this research programme, we may be able to develop new ways to detect other health conditions earlier in the future that also exhibit measurable physiological symptoms."

According to Johnson & Johnson, the multi-year, US based research programme, which will be launched later this year, and will include participants aged 65 years and older, aims to "analyse the impact of Apple Watch on the early detection and diagnosis of [AF], and the potential to improve outcomes including the prevention of stroke." Specifically, the study aims to measure the outcomes of a heart health engagement programme with irregular rhythm notifications on Apple Watch and assess the impact of a medication adherence programme using a Johnson & Johnson app.

Last year, data were presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) from Johnson & Johnson's mSTOPs trial showing that earlier screening leads to increased AF detection. The study included 2655 participants who were randomly assigned to immediate monitoring or delayed monitoring with a telemetry patch. After one year, 6.3 percent of the actively monitored patients had been diagnosed with AF compared with 2.3 percent of an observational matched-control cohort of 3476 patients.

Paul Burton, vice president of medical affairs, internal medicine, Janssen Scientific Affairs, remarked that "utilising wristwatch-based optical heart sensor and ECG monitoring is a logical evolution of this research and may also lead to increased [AF] diagnosis and improved clinical outcomes for patients." Burton added that "ultimately, we hope to improve the treatment of cardiovascular disease, and identify ways to prevent it."

A recent report suggested that Apple has been in talks with at least three private Medicare plans about subsidising the Apple Watch for people aged over 65 to use as a health tracker.

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