While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared smartwatch software for detecting atrial fibrillation (AF), there is lack of guidance on management by physicians. We sought to evaluate the approach to management of Apple Watch alerts for AF by physicians and assess whether respondent and case characteristics were associated with their approach.
We conducted a case-based survey of physicians practicing primary care, emergency medicine, and cardiology at 2 large academic centers (Yale and University of California San Francisco) between September to December 2021. Cases described asymptomatic patients receiving Apple Watch AF alerts; cases varied in sex, race, medical history, and notification frequency. We evaluated physician responses among prespecified diagnostic testing, referral, and treatment options.
We emailed 636 physicians, of whom 95 (14.9%) completed the survey, including 39 primary care, 25 emergency medicine, and 31 cardiology physicians. Among a total of 192 cases (16 unique scenarios), physicians selected at least one diagnostic test in 191 (99.5%) cases and medications in 48 (25.0%). Physicians in primary care, emergency medicine, and cardiology reported varying preference for patient referral (14%, 30%, and 16%, respectively; P=.048), rhythm monitoring (84%, 46%, and 94%, respectively; P<.001), measurement of BNP (8%, 20%, and 2%; P=.003), and use of antiarrhythmics (16%, 4%, and 23%; P=.023). There were few physician differences in reported practices across patient demographics (sex and race), clinical complexity, and alert frequency of the clinical case.
In hypothetical cases of patients presenting without clinical symptoms, physicians opted for further diagnostic testing and often to medical intervention based on Apple Watch irregular rhythm notifications. There was also considerable variation across physician specialties, suggesting a need for uniform clinical practice guidelines. Additional study is required before irregular rhythm notifications should be used in clinical settings.

Copyright © 2023. Published by Elsevier Inc.