Smartphones and tablets have been ripe platforms for app development for years. Smartwatches were late to the party — the first Apple Watch was launched in April 2015, less than three years ago — but they’re catching up fast. App developers must invest valuable time and resources, so they tend to stick to robust device platforms that will have longevity. The iPhone and Fitbit serve as prime examples of major devices with eager app writers. We’ve written about heart health Apple Watch apps including Cardiogram’s mRhythm application, developed in conjunction with the University of California San Francisco Cardiology Department.

In November 2017 Apple and Stanford Medicine introduced the Apple Heart Study. The purpose is to learn how wearables such as the Apple Watch can help consumers take proactive steps they need when an app sends an alert about irregular heart rhythm. The Apple Watch green-light optical sensors collect data from four points on the wrist. A proprietary algorithm isolates irregular heart rhythms. If an arrhythmia is detected, the app sends notifications to the wearer’s Apple Watch and iPhone, and then sets up a free video consult with a medical professional. In some instances, the doctor may send a BioTelemetry electrocardiogram (ECG) patch, again at no cost. Consumers wear the patch for seven days to determine if the irregular rhythm is due to atrial fibrillation or something else.

The study is now open for applications. Successful applicants must be 22 or older and own an iPhone 5s or later and an Apple Watch Series 1 or later; original Apple Watches don’t qualify. To join the Apple Heart Study potential participants download and install the Apple Heart Study app from the Apple Store. If the consumers meet the requirements listed in the app, the next step is to enter their state, residence, and birthday. The research team will send each new participant a notification to the consumer’s iPhone and Apple Watch. Reference the Stanford FAQ site for more information about the program. The study is scheduled to last through January 31, 2019.