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How the Apple Watch Series 6 is a part of the future of healthcare

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(Photo Credit: News Hub)

Why is the Apple Watch Series 6 the best smartwatch in 2020?
We all know that the Apple Watch Series 6 launched earlier this year, but the question that has been on everyone’s lips (or wrists) is why is it better than any other smartwatch out there?
Yes, it tracks your sleep, encourages you to stay fit etc. But the main upgrade (and price bump - US$120 more than its cousin the Apple Watch SE) is what could help change your health and telehealth services for generations to come.
This upgrade is a redesigned optical heart sensor that measures your blood oxygen levels on a regular basis.
What are Blood Oxygen levels?  
Well, your blood oxygen level is a key indicator of your overall wellness. It can help you understand how efficiently your body is absorbing oxygen, and the amount of oxygen that is being delivered to your body.
How do I read my Blood Oxygen levels?
Once you connect your blood oxygen app to your Apple Watch Series 6, the revolutionary blood oxygen sensor works through four LED clusters and four photodiodes. The green, red and infrared LEDs shine light onto the blood vessels in your wrist, and the photodiodes measure the amount of light reflected back. Advanced algorithms then calculate the color of your blood, which indicates the amount of oxygen present. The color determines your blood oxygen level - bright red blood has more oxygen, while dark red blood has less.1


(Photo credits: Apple)

(Photo Credits)

What is a normal Blood Oxygen Level?

Most people have a blood oxygen levels of 95-100%. However, there are some exceptions and there can be slightly lower values while sleeping. This measure of oxygen saturation (SpO2) shows how much oxygen from your lungs’ red blood cells are being transported to other parts of the body. 

Why should we care about this now?

This blood oxygen reader is more relevant and important to the population than ever before due to COVID-19. Low blood oxygen levels, or hypoxemia, have been linked to COVID-19 due the virus’s interference with your ability to get enough oxygen.

Doctors have used SpO2 levels to determine the severity of COVID-19 cases and treat those patients accordingly.2 This is the first time the blood oximeter (which delivers similar results as a pulse oximeter) has been built into a smartwatch, making it easily accessible for users to monitor their general health throughout the pandemic. 

When doctors pointed out early in the pandemic that people with the Coronavirus often arrive at the hospital with abnormally low oxygen levels, sales of pulse oximeters skyrocketed. Some doctors have reported COVID-19 patients entering the hospital with oxygen levels at 50% or below.3

A low oxygen reading by itself is not enough to diagnose COVID-19, but doctors want to know about it, especially if you notice the level decreasing over time. Plus, if you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 your doctor may want to monitor your oxygen level to determine whether your condition is becoming worse or improving.

In this way, having the Apple Watch Series 6 and frequently monitoring your blood oxygen level can really help track your overall wellness during the pandemic, getting users ahead of the virus versus continuously chasing it. 

Don’t forget about the EKG Reader!

Alongside of the innovative blood oxygen reader the Apple Watch Series 6 continues to have its EKG feature that tracks your heart rate and rhythm and can detect a condition called atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat). Apple went through a long, extensive process to validate this feature thereby receiving approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).4

As part of this approval process Apple had to provide and publish data showing that the feature could flag this condition. Doctors and experts were able to examine this data and there are many published studies that show how effective the Apple Watch can be in detecting dangerous heart rhythms.5


(Photo Credits: Hardware Zone)

The Apple Watch Series 6 is also being used with medical professionals as a tool within their Telehealth services toolbox as it provides useful metrics for patient consultations. 

What are Telehealth Services? 

Telehealth is the use of two-way telecommunications technologies to provide clinical health care through a variety of remote methods. This creates a safer option for patients to receive the medical care they need from Healthcare Providers while socially distancing to mitigate the risk of spread to individuals that do not have COVID. It also reduces the strain on healthcare systems by minimizing the surge of patient demand on facilities and reduce the use of PPE by healthcare providers.6

The CDC analyzed the trends of increases in telehealth services since the pandemic broke out worldwide. During the first quarter of 2020, the number of telehealth visits increased by 50% versus Q1 2019. This number is expected to increase throughout 2021 as the virus has continued to spread internationally.7

For more information on how the CDC is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and how we are working with the CDC Foundation check out our Catalyst Cares program here.

Where does the Apple Watch S6 fit in within Telehealth Services?

Many healthcare professionals are new to performing telehealth visits, so having a list of the most common medical equipment can help make the transition to online visits easier. These tools include things such as remote vital monitoring, virtual stethoscopes, wireless scales, digital otoscopes, high quality cameras, pulse or blood oxygen oximeters and HIPAA-compliant software to perform their job more effectively while analyzing their patient.

During the COVID-19 national emergency in the U.S., the ECG app on Apple Watch can serve as a substitute for in-clinic diagnostic testing, which reduces the risk of exposure for both patients and Healthcare providers. Healthcare providers can use it for clinical use

cases where a single-Lead or Lead I ECG test can help effectively diagnose certain arrhythmias or manage related conditions.8

This is important because some drugs have side effects of causing QT prolongation, a heart rhythm condition that can potentially cause fast, chaotic heartbeats, and which leads to an increased risk of heart failure or death. Some of the drugs proposed to treat COVID-19, including hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, are known to prolong the QT interval, creating safety concerns and the need for out-patient monitoring. 9 This led the American College of Cardiology to recommend QT monitoring for outpatients with COVID-19 on hydroxychloroquine/azithromycin by using consumer devices such as the Apple Watch, for use in resource constraints or quarantines.10

(Photo Credits: MacRumours)

The people at highest risk of severe illness and complications from SARS-CoV-2 also include people who have pre-existing conditions such as cardiovascular disease, so using remote monitoring to track changes in symptoms or underlying health conditions and intervene on a timely basis as the patient’s condition changes with follow up actions based upon protocols according to disease progression.

What does HIPPA Compliant mean?

Maintaining privacy compliance is also more difficult and important than ever. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets the standard for sensitive patient data. With Telehealth services becoming more popular than ever before, the need for HIPAA compliance is more important than ever.11

The Security Rule is in place to protect the privacy of individuals’ health information, while also allowing covered entities to adopt new technologies that improve the quality and efficiency of patient care. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) requires physical and technical safeguards for organizations hosting sensitive patient data, including electronic media such as blood oxygen level readings. 

How can you protect your Apple Watch S6?

With the Apple Watch Series 6 being used not only be the general population but also by healthcare professionals, it is more critical than ever to protect it. Our award-winning Catalyst Waterproof cases for the Apple Watch S6 are the first of its kind. Not only are they washable with soap and water, but they can also be disinfected with EPA-approved disinfectants and are fully compatible with the blood oxygen sensor. 




  1. Apple Inc., Apple Watch Series 6,,
  1. CNET, Apple Watch Blood Oxygen app: How it works and how to use it,
  1. CNET, Apple Watch Series 6 has a blood oximeter. What that has to do with COVID-19,, 2020.
  1. FDA (ed U.S. Food and Drug Administration), FDA classification under 21 CFR Part 801 Subpart C of the ECG App, an over-the-counter device, into Class II for over-the-counter use,, 2018.
  1. FDA (ed U.S. Food and Drug Administration), FDA De Novo Classifcation Request for ECG App,, 2018.
  1. CDC (ed USA Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Using Telehealth to Expand Access to Essential Health Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic,, 2020.
  1. CDC (ed USA Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Trends in the Use of Telehealth During the Emergence of the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, January–March 2020,,
  1. Apple Inc., Expanded use of Apple ECG app for supporting remote heart rhythm evaluation during the COVID-19 pandemic,, 2020.
  1. Marc Strik, Théo Caillol, F. Daniel Ramirez, Saer Abu-Alrub, Hugo Marchand, Nicolas Welte, Philippe Ritter, Michel Haïssaguerre, Sylvain Ploux, & Pierre Bordachar. Validating QT-Interval Measurement Using the Apple Watch ECG to Enable Remote Monitoring During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Circulation. 2020;142:416–418,, 2020.
  1. ACC (ed. American College of Cardiology), Ventricular Arrhythmia Risk Due to Hydroxychloroquine-Azithromycin Treatment For COVID-19,, 2020.
  1. HHS (ed. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), The HIPAA Privacy Rule,, 2020.


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