Ryan Howard, the founder of Practice Fusion, and Dr. Mehmet Oz, the know-it-all celebrity doctor that’s always trying to sell you a miracle, have partnered to release a new heart rate monitoring smartwatch. The iBeat Life Monitor is touted to be able to detect “signs of oncoming cardiac arrest.” It supposedly is able to do this via photoplethysmography, a way of using a pulse oximeter to measure the variation of the blood volume in the distal vessels, and to extrapolate volume of blood pumped by the heart. We are a bit skeptical as this technology has its limitations, including accuracy problems during physical activity and measurements being affected by other physiological parameters such as breathing.
According to creators, when it does detect a problem, the watch sounds an alarm asking if the user is “OK”. If there’s no response or if the user does push the “No” button, the watch will dial emergency services and any family members programmed into the device. All this can also be activated by the user holding down an emergency call button on the watch for at least two seconds. Since it has its own cellular connectivity built in, it doesn’t need a smartphone to operate. Moreover, because there’s a GPS inside as well, it will provide the user’s location to emergency responders and family members to help speed up the response. The responders and caretakers receive a text message with a map of the user’s location, even if the patient is moving. This lets the medical team respond in an appropriate way, whether by sending out an ambulance or warning an emergency room to get ready for a new arrival, while family members are always aware of the person’s location and can come quickly to the receiving hospital.
Dr. Oz held a call with members of the media and highlighted that survival from cardiac arrest outside the hospital is quite low. He said that he’s optimistic the iBeat can “quite dramatically” change those odds, particularly for older people with diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol.
The device is not yet available, but pre-orders are being taken via Indiegogo to help begin manufacturing.
Here’s a video previewing the iBeat: