Apple Watch Series 6
Anthem, the second largest insurer in the US, is working with Apple and a number of other employees on a study to examine how people diagnosed with asthma can use consumer devices like Apple Watch to better manage their condition.
The study is carried out by UC .Irvine with data acquisition from the health tech company CareEvolution. It̵
The two-year study examines whether data gathered from the iPhone and Apple Watch can help people with asthma predict potentially serious consequences that could lead to hospitalization. Approximately 1.8 million people end up in emergency rooms for asthma each year. Overall, 1 in 14 people has the disease.
This makes asthma a major source of expense for health plans, including Anthem, which through Medicaid covers both commercial and low-income populations. Anthem has announced that it will be recruiting a diverse study population.
“We know that people enrolled in Medicaid are disproportionately exposed to the burden of asthma, which often leads to greater reliance on the healthcare system,” said Warris Bokhari, vice president of Digital Care Delivery. “With this composition of the study population, we can ensure that our results are representative.”
This study is the first real step Apple has taken to help people with asthma. In 2019 the company acquired Tueo Health, A start-up that worked on monitoring asthma detection in children. The company’s co-founder, Bronwyn Harris, is still working at Apple Health, according to LinkedIn, although Apple has not stated whether there is a connection between the two projects.
“We hope this study can help the medical community learn new insights into asthma control and identify effective digital tools that people around the world can use to better manage their disease,” said Myoung Cha, director of strategic affairs Health initiatives at Apple, in a statement.
Currently, the Anthem study is not intended to help anyone under the age of 18 who have been diagnosed with the disease.
The study has slots for 900 people with asthma between the ages of 18 and 64 years. Participants must be on a health plan operated by Anthem or one of its affiliates and have their own iPhone.
You are given a Beddit sleep monitor and Apple Watch and then are divided into two groups: an active group that uses the devices and a control group that does not. (The study is designed as a randomized controlled trial that aims to reduce bias when testing the effectiveness of a treatment or intervention.)
The active group will use what is known as a “digital asthma tool,” which includes daily symptom and trigger tracking and nudges based on signal changes from the Apple Watch’s health sensors, including heart rate, activity and a new feature to measure blood oxygen levels. For example, a participant might find that the air quality outside is good, but that they had trouble sleeping all night. Participants are also logged to ask about their symptoms.
The control group will still have access to their standard asthma treatment and will be asked to complete surveys.
Anthem and Apple are working together to find out how the iPhone and Apple Watch can be used to monitor asthma.
Participants will also receive educational materials on how to better manage their condition, including videos from Dr. Mike Evans, a popular YouTube doctor who has been with Apple since 2016.
While there is no guarantee of success, Apple could attempt a range of evidence for a new type of “digital biomarker”. If health surveillance is found to be important to people with asthma, health plans like Anthem can subsidize the cost of Apple’s hardware and software. It could also lead to new potential products if the company can be approved by regulators.
Apple has already been released to alert people to potential heart health notifications.
However, experts warn that the program may not work.
“It will certainly be effective to send nudges, but whether they result in behavior changes or ultimately exhaustion and the alarm cessation must be determined,” said Sachin Gupta, a San Francisco-based pulmonologist who treats patients with asthma. “The studies of smartphones in asthma so far have been limited by their small size and lack of control.”
Those who register for the study can cancel at any time. Your data will only be used for medical research purposes. So it is not sold to any third party, including advertisers.