Taiwan researchers develop ECG-enabled smart watch

01/06/2020 08:27 PM
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Photo courtesy of the National Central University
Photo courtesy of the National Central University

Taipei, Jan. 6 (CNA) A Taiwanese research team has developed a wearable device that can be used to check heart function through an electrocardiogram (ECG) test and determine whether wearers have an irregular heartbeat and could be at risk of a stroke.

The smart watch was designed by a research team of the College of Health Sciences and Technology under National Central University in Taoyuan City under an "AI-realized fenceless hospital" program.

At a press event on Monday, Lin Chen (林澂), an assistant professor in biomedical science and engineering and member of the research team, demonstrated how the smart watch with artificial intelligence (AI) functions can be used to provide ECG test data by pressing down on the surface of the watch with one's index finger for one to two minutes.

With real-time analysis provided by an AI-based cloud ECG reading system, the device can determine whether the user is developing atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) or an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other related complications, Lin said.

He added that data collected by the smart watch, which detects AF with 97 percent accuracy, can be used to monitor chronic diseases or identify high-risk patients.

While AF is a common form of arrhythmia clinically, about one in every 100 people develops AF, placing them at high risk of a stroke. The device can help identify those most at risk so they can seek immediate medical treatment, Lin noted.

According to Lin's team, the ECG-enabled smart watch was certified by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States for medical treatment use in 2018.

Taiwan Landseed Hospital physician Lin Ying-kuang (林盈光) said heartbeats change all the time, so arrhythmia cannot always be detected at hospitals; therefore, it is vital for people to be able to monitor their health at home.

With the new invention, patients can have their heartbeat recorded anytime they feel ill and physicians can monitor their patients' health from data uploaded by the smart watch to the cloud system, Lin Ying-kuang said.

Since June 2018 Lin Chen's research team has worked with the health authorities of Taipei and Taoyuan municipal governments and the Hsinchu branch of Cathay General Hospital to undertake AF screening through ECG tests conducted using the smart watch, according to National Central University.

Last May the screening was expanded to communities in Hsinchu City, Tainan and Pingtung County with local health departments' assistance, the research team said, noting that as a result of the mass screening, it has so far acquired ECG data on more than 10,000 patients.

Collectively, the ECG tests of patients indicate that about 15 percent have arrhythmia with 2 percent of those aged over 65 developing AF, the research team said.

(By Hsu Chih-wei and Elizabeth Hsu)

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