Johnson & Johnson (J&J) subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals has partnered with Apple on a research project that is intended to boost the diagnosis and outcomes of atrial fibrillation (AFib) patients.

During the study, J&J will combine its heart health monitoring app with the Apple Watch irregular rhythm notifications feature and ECG app.

AFib is a cardiac disorder that could result in serious complications, including stroke. The condition is estimated to cause nearly 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalisations each year in the US.

“The partners intend to launch a multi-year randomised, controlled research study later this year for people aged 65 years or more in the US.”

A recent study (mSTOPs) by J&J found that early screening could lead to better detection of AFib.

The objective of the new research study is to assess Apple Watch’s ability to detect and diagnose AFib in the early stages, as well as the device’s potential to improve outcomes or prevent conditions such as stroke.

Johnson & Johnson chief scientific officer Paul Stoffels said: “Too many people living with AFib are unaware of their risk, and earlier detection, diagnosis and treatment of AFib could significantly improve outcomes.

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“Based on the insights generated through this research program, we may be able to develop new ways to detect other health conditions earlier in the future that also exhibit measurable physiological symptoms.”

Specifically, the project will focus on the outcomes of a heart health engagement programme through the use of irregular rhythm notifications on Apple Watch.

The research will additionally monitor the effect of a medication adherence programme using a J&J app.

Apple chief operating officer Jeff Williams said: “Through Apple Watch people have been able to learn more about their heart health, including discovering they have AFib.

“This kind of information empowers customers to follow up with the right treatment or even better, implement healthy habits aimed at prevention.”

The partners intend to launch a multi-year randomised, controlled research study later this year for people aged 65 years or more in the US.

In November last year, a similar study by Stanford University School of Medicine enrolled more than 400,000 participants to investigate the use of Apple Watch in detecting heart-rhythm disorder. It is thought that this study could lead to the expansion of the electrophysiology market.

Apple also collaborated with Zimmer Biomet in October 2018 to help knee and hip replacement surgery patients using Apple Watch and iPhone. In November 2017, a study by Takeda Pharmaceuticals USA and Cognition Kit showed the use of Apple Watch to monitor and assess cognition and mood in major depressive disorder patients. Another common condition that Apple Watch can be used to monitor is diabetes.

With the price of smartwatches set to drop this year, research company Gartner is predicting a 26% growth in the wider wearable device market.

Additional reporting by Charlotte Edwards.