Beth Stamps, a home health nurse in Fayetteville, North Carolina, was visiting a patient on January 10 when her heart began pounding. “It felt like my heart was pumping twice as fast, as if I was running a marathon,” she says. “I was terrified.”
Stamps looked at her Apple Watch, which can track a user’s heart rate. It alerted her that her heart was beating 177 times a minute, nearly double a normal resting heart rate. An app on the watch warned her to contact a doctor. Stamps called 911 and was raced to the emergency room, where she says she was treated for supraventricular tachycardia, an abnormally fast heart rhythm. “Ever since then, I’ve made sure to check my heart rate on the watch every day,” she says.
Stamps’ experience could become increasingly common as more people are able to track changes in their bodies without the help of a medical professional. The Apple Watch 4, released in 2018, includes an ECG feature for monitoring abnormal heart rhythm. It’s just one of a growing number of smart devices that allow people to monitor their health at home. The connected medical device market, which includes gadgets that monitor health through wireless sensors and mobile apps, is expected to show “significant growth,” according to a 2019 study.
The health companies behind some of these gadgets are preparing devices that will be able to do much more than basic heart rate readings. An Israeli company called Health.io recently received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a test that allows people at risk of kidney disease — like those with heart disease or diabetes — to use their smartphones to test their urine for kidney damage. The testing kit uses disposable strips in conjunction with a smartphone camera to read and interpret results.
Another device is the Butterfly iQ, which is billed as the first handheld whole-body ultrasound system. The product has FDA approval and will soon be marketed to physicians as a way to monitor people with chronic conditions, like a child with cystic fibrosis who needs…