Ticking towards an innovative way to monitor heart health: the growing power of the smartwatch

Despite their impressive global boom in functionality and popularity, today’s innovative, data-packed smartwatches have humble roots.1 It was almost a century ago when The Plus Four Wristlet Route Indicator set the course of smart wrist-wear. Back then, miniature scrolls packed tightly to a watch-like strap unravelled miles worth of data. At the winding of a knob, travellers in 1927 could navigate their way from London to Edinburgh while en route.2 Paving the way for innovators decades later, miniature paper scrolls have been replaced by 64GB of data storage at the tap of a screen.3

Just as the 1927 wristlet opened a new world for adventurers looking for direction, the technological power of today’s smartwatches opens a new world in health monitoring. Smartwatches have evolved to boast staggering health monitoring advancements, including measurements of:

  • Blood oxygen levels3
  • Blood pressure4
  • Breaths per minute5
  • Heart rate3
  • Heart rhythm3

The picture that can be built from the data above has the potential to both transform how people with health conditions adapt their lifestyles and are cared for by healthcare professionals. And smartwatch functionality is only set to further advance. There are well-founded hopes that more accurate and comprehensive sensors will not only measure more vital signs, but also do so with medical grade precision.6

The reliability and capability of smartwatches: what the numbers say

Over 60 million people are living with cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Europe, and clinical studies have shown that smart wearable data can predict CVD with over 99% accuracy. , And specific research into atrial fibrillation (AF) shows that smartwatches have a 70-90% accuracy in predicting it, when the data collected is combined with algorithms designed to identify AF.

Some cases of AF can be hard to spot in a hospital setting, even if a patient has experienced symptoms.6 Because AF can ‘come and go’, a diagnosis can be difficult.6 However, smartwatches allow patients to record details and timings of any sensations which can be supported by data captured by their smartwatch at the time of their physical symptoms.6 They can then report and discuss what they experienced with their doctor, which, as one doctor says, “gives patients the power to find pieces of information that could otherwise be missed”.6

Research and anecdotal evidence make compelling cases that smartwatches could be another helpful tool for both patients and healthcare professionals in protecting heart health more effectively. Spotting the signs of an irregular heart rhythm on a smartwatch could encourage people to visit their doctor sooner than they would otherwise. Equally, armed with a holistic picture of a patient’s situation through real-life wearable data, healthcare professionals could potentially identify risks more quickly than relying on short-term data from an ECG in a controlled hospital setting alone.

So, are smartwatches the future of heart health monitoring?

Smartwatches are not the sole answer to achieving better heart health and do not replace medical advice. However, the data the wearable devices can provide is an invaluable source of information. It can be accessed quickly when speed is key in helping in addressing high cases of preventable heart conditions across Europe.10

It is vital that patients feel empowered and equipped with knowledge to nurture a meaningful dialogue with their healthcare professional in which they take an active role in decision-making about their heart. Equally, healthcare professionals should also be able to access the fullest ‘real-life’ picture of their patient and the full results of their continuous data monitoring, to inform holistic decision-making that goes beyond seeing the heart as an organ in isolation. The potential for smartwatches to integrate various health metrics – like sleep quality information or stress management features – broadens the horizon for patients and healthcare professionals alike to take a holistic approach to heart health care.4

We can take inspiration from the 1927 wristlet that paved the way for satellite navigation in cars across Europe.2 Although digital maps are a foundational element for travel in 2024, people still look out of the window, follow the road signs and stop and ask for help when needed. Similarly, individuals should not rely on smartwatches alone to protect their heart health, but the supporting data that smartwatches provide should be carefully integrated into heart care where appropriate. The signs are positive that smartwatches will continue to help patients and healthcare professionals better navigate the route to protecting hearts across Europe.

At Daiichi Sankyo Europe, Specialty Medicines, we care for every heartbeat. We are committed to exploring new avenues to improvements in care and better heart health across Europe. Today, personalised medicine, sensor technology and live tracking offer new opportunities to prevent, detect and diagnose medical conditions. Inspired by these technological advancements, Daiichi Sankyo established a Digital Innovation Hub – DSPACE – that seeks to support patients and healthcare partners beyond the medicines we can provide, extending the treatment journey. We aim to ensure that our support addresses not only the efficacy of our medicines, but also the broader needs of those involved within the cardiovascular care pathway.

Statista. Number of users of smartwatches worldwide from 2019 to 2028.
https://www.statista.com/forecasts/1314339/worldwide-users-of-smartwatches Last Accessed March 2024.
Wilken, R., & Thomas, J. Maps and the Autonomous Vehicle as a Communication Platform. International Journal of Communication. 2019. 13: 2710.
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Apple. Buy Apple Watch Series 9.
https://www.apple.com/uk/shop/buy-watch/apple-watch Last Accessed March 2024.
Huawei. Huawei Watch D.
https://consumer.huawei.com/uk/wearables/watch-d/ Last Accessed March 2024.
Shrestha, A., et al. Navigating the Role of Smartwatches in Cardiac Fitness Monitoring: Insights From Physicians and the Evolving Landscape. Current Problems in Cardiology. 2024. 49;(1)B.
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ESCardio. European Heart Health Charter 2023 Revision.
https://www.escardio.org/static-file/Escardio/Advocacy/Documents/EHHC-Brochure-2023.pdf Last Accessed March 2024.
Moshawrab, M., et al. Smart wearables for the detection of cardiovascular diseases: A systematic literature review. Sensors. 2023. 23;(2): 828.
Last Accessed 
Atrial Fibrillation Institute. Atrial Fibrillation: A Guide to Wearable ESG Smart Watches.
https://afibinstitute.com.au/atrial-fibrillation-a-guide-to-wearable-ecg-smart-watches/#:~:text=in%20the%20ECG.-,How%20accurate%20are%20the%20algorithms%3F,from%20about%2070%2D90%25 Last Accessed March 2024.
European Society of Cardiology (ESC). Fighting cardiovascular disease – a blueprint for EU action.
https://www.escardio.org/static-file/Escardio/Advocacy/Documents/2020 ESC-EHN-blueprint_digital edition.pdf Last Accessed March 2024.