An overview of wearable ECG signal measurement

04/07/2023 – Written by Paulo SilveiraPaulo Silveira in Blogpost – 7 mins read

Electrocardiograms (ECG or EKG) records are emerging as an essential and innovative feature in approximately 50% of the latest wearable devices available today. Enabling this measurement at any time, anywhere provides great potential to trigger a significant revolution in numerous use cases, owing to the wealth of biomarkers that can be derived from ECG data. Apart from detecting cardiovascular problems, data from ECG readings can also offer insights into various stress-related conditions.

How accurate is ECG on smartwatches? Do wearable sensors record ECGs as good as the standard of care?

Despite the unquestionable advantage of on-the-go measurements, ECGs measured by wearable devices are usually performed as single-lead ECG readings instead of 12-channel readings like bulky, traditional ECG machines would record. This is a trend seen beyond wearable devices: Manually triggered, shorter (30-second) recordings have become the standard for home-recorded ECGs (e.g. the Beurer ME 90). With Thryve’s tried and tested Wearable API, any company can gain access to the ECG signal from (almost) any wearable device in the market, with one straightforward integration.

What are the benefits of ECG at home?

Besides convenience and ease of use, being able to have several ECG measurements a day can prove to be instrumental for the tracking of certain conditions. ECG signals provide us with many possible biomarkers in areas related to cardiovascular diseases and beyond. One not-too-obvious area to look at is the Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

HRV is a widely studied predictor of several conditions, but on a more primal level, it is deeply connected to our body’s autonomic nervous system. This means heart rate variability tells a lot about how balanced the nervous system is as well as provides insights on how capable a person’s body is in adapting to its environment and performing at its best.

Higher HRV values generally indicate a higher influence of the parasympathetic nervous system which usually means digestive activity/rest, whilst lower HRV values will generally indicate a flight or flight response from the sympathetic nervous system. By virtue of being so highly connected to this portion of the nervous system, it is a great predictor of Stress levels (mental and physical), which can be highly relevant information for many in the Digital Health space.

Are at-home ECG readings interesting for your product or service in the short to mid-term?

Yes, definitely

No, they are not interesting

How does Thryve work with ECG data?

As the ECG is one of the emerging signals that can be derived from contemporary wearables, we, as the leading Wearable API processing data for millions of users every day, are deeply interested in how we can help the global digital health ecosystem most to benefit from this powerful health-indicator. As such, we are constantly experimenting and researching with the data provided by wearable devices and want to learn more about how crucial the market perceives at-home ECGs to be, in order to shape our decisions on what features and implementations are needed to provide our customers and the overall ecosystem with the best product possible.