the essential
The sale of connected watches continues to grow. By providing data on heart rate, sleep, stress level, should they be considered as tools for health? Doctors nuance.

Widely used by athletes who have made it a tool for monitoring their performance, connected watches have won over another audience in recent years. By providing data on heart rate, sleep phases, number of calories expended, stress level, they are no longer content to simply tell the time or record the number of steps. Until becoming a tool to monitor our health? Not quite, qualify the doctors who recall that these devices are not evaluated as medical devices.

“In 99% of cases, it’s a gadget worn by people who don’t need any particular follow-up. It can even be false insurance: in the event of a heart attack or a clogged artery, the watch can indicate a normal heart rate. Of course, if, at rest, this rate suddenly increases, we can move towards additional investigations, but if each patient sends us his heart rate reading, we will be faced with organizational and medico-legal concerns “, summarizes Dr Alexandre Duparc, cardiologist at the University Hospital Center (CHU) of Toulouse. He adds: “The watch is not everything. It is better to be attentive to pain in the chest, shortness of breath or palpitations”.

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“What matters is the feeling”

The approach is identical for Dr. Rachel Debs, neurologist at the University Hospital of Toulouse and sleep specialist. “In insomniac patients, the watch has the opposite effect and fuels the phenomenon of insomnia: they get up in the morning looking at their watch and scrutinizing their sleep time. However, what counts is the feeling, it is to fall asleep in a serene, natural way, without wondering if we are going to sleep or not”. However, the neurologist notes an interest for the youngest populations who can thus become aware of their sleep time which they believe, often wrongly, to be sufficient.

Also pay attention to the interpretation of the data. “These watches provide reliable indications of deep sleep time because it is based on a slowing down and stabilization of the heart rate. But this is not the case for the dream and REM sleep phases which are too close to the waking phases. Sleep is individual and you don’t need a watch to realize that you are lacking it. As for sleep apnea, the markers are not sufficiently reliable: if we are very stressed, we will wake up several times in the night and it will not be apnea”.

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The market for connected watches continues to grow, 100 million users for the Apple Watch

So, too gadgets connected objects? Not quite according to Antoine Piau, professor of digital health at the Toulouse University Hospital, who plans with Innov’Pole Santé, to create a large support center for the companies that manufacture them. “Our ambition is to create a cohort of more than a hundred volunteers to test new connected objects in real life”.

“Connected objects will become essential for prevention”

“The current health system does not work. “Even someone who is very well followed by his general practitioner, who consults him every three months, will only see him for 45 minutes a year… And it is not in this time we can change a way of life. Introducing regular information on people’s daily health, why not coupled with recommendations, will be essential for prevention. Day-to-day measurements when things are going well can help detect anomalies earlier. But you have to be accompanied, otherwise these objects will remain gadgets”, concludes Antoine Piau.

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