Image source: Garmin

Garmin new partnership aims to tackle sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation

Garmin has teamed up with the University of Kansas Medical Center to figure out how to better use its wearables to help with detection and management of significant medical conditions. The initial research will focus on atrial fibrillation and sleep apnea.

“As patients assume increased responsibility for their own health care, Garmin is committed to the development of wearables that can lead to the prevention or detection of serious health conditions.,” said Scott Burgett, Director of Garmin Health Engineering.

“With long battery life, high water rating, and high-quality sensor data, we can provide meaningful features that will help reduce health care costs and provide useful functionality for everyday life.”

Garmin was an early mover and pioneer in the wearables market. Over the past 15 years, the company has shipped more than 20 million wearable devices worldwide. Garmin’s wearables strategy is centered on purpose-built devices for consumers who want to measure and enhance their active lifestyle pursuits.

But just like Apple and Fitbit, Garmin is now looking past running, cycling, swimming, golfing and walking, to medical application of its wearables. After all, this is a very lucrative market.

In atrial fibrillation, electrical conduction in the heart becomes disorganised. Signs include dizziness, weakness and fatigue. The disease is treatable, but many people don’t feel symptoms, so the trick is detecting it in time.

Garmin’s heart rate technology is right up there with the best of them, so could potentially be used to identify periods in which abnormal heart beats may be occurring. University of Kansas Medical Center research provides clinically based data that can aid in the development of algorithms capable of identifying the condition.

Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets

Like atrial fibrillation, sleep apnea can be cumbersome and costly to detect. The disorder is characterized by pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep. These can last from a few seconds to minutes and they happen many times a night. Heart rate and oxygen levels are prime indicators of sleep apnea, so it should not too far of a stretch to upgrade existing hardware.

“Wearables have already increased the public’s awareness of activity levels while awake,” said Suzanne Stevens, M.D., Clinical Assistant Professor of Neurolog at KU Medical Center.

“This research helps us better understand how wearables can do the same while asleep, helping to detect sleep apnea, which left untreated can affect mood, memory, trigger heart arrhythmias, heart attacks, and even strokes.”

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