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PSA: Family Setup Prevents Relatives From Using Blood Oxygen Monitoring on Apple Watch Series 6 Models, Regardless of Age

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Apr 12, 2001
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In watchOS 7, Family Setup is a new feature that allows kids, elderly relatives, and others to take advantage of many of the capabilities of Apple Watch without the need for their own paired iPhone.


Family Setup offers helpful tools for parents and kids, with Schooltime and Downtime features that offer controls over when and what kids can do with their Apple Watch. For older adults, it provides access to tools like fall detection, automatic emergency calling, and health features without the need for them to have an ‌iPhone‌.

However, if you were thinking of getting an Apple Watch Series 6 for a relative in your Family Setup circle so they could take advantage of the Blood Oxygen monitoring feature, think again.

Apple states that the Blood Oxygen app is not available for use by people under 18 years old, and in fact the app will refuse to launch if it detects that the user's birth date in the Health app is less than 18 years ago. But the Blood Oxygen app will also be automatically disabled if you set up an unpaired Apple Watch Series 6 using Family Setup, regardless of the intended user's age.

Besides being a Health-related feature, Apple has not explained why the Blood Oxygen app is not available on an Apple Watch configured using Family Setup, but the company has been eager to stress that the blood oxygen monitoring on Apple Watch is not intended for medical use, including self-diagnosis or consultation with a doctor. Indeed, Apple states that it is only designed for "general fitness and wellness purposes," which leaves its usefulness quite open to interpretation.

Oxygen saturation, or SpO2, represents the percentage of oxygen being carried by red blood cells from the lungs to the rest of the body, and indicates how well this oxygenated blood is being delivered throughout the body. A healthy person usually has blood oxygen levels in the mid- to high 90s. But if someone has a health condition like lung disease, sleep disorders or respiratory infections, these levels can dip between the 60s to the low 90s.

Until more research is conducted, however, Apple is likely to continue to limit the use of the Blood Oxygen app in situations where it thinks the measurements might be relied upon as early indications of medical conditions or disease, such as in a Family Setup context.

The good news is that Apple is joining forces with researchers to conduct three health studies that include using Apple Watch to explore how blood oxygen levels can be used in future health applications, including how they may help manage and control asthma and heart failure, and how they could serve as early signs of respiratory conditions like influenza and COVID-19.

Article Link: PSA: Family Setup Prevents Relatives From Using Blood Oxygen Monitoring on Apple Watch Series 6 Models, Regardless of Age
 
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jlc1978

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Aug 14, 2009
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Apple has not explained why the Blood Oxygen app is not available on an Apple Watch configured using Family Setup, but the company has been eager to stress that the blood oxygen monitoring on Apple Watch is not intended for medical use, including self-diagnosis or consultation with a doctor. Indeed, Apple states that it is only designed for "general fitness and wellness purposes," which leaves its usefulness quite open to interpretation.

It's quite possible that it is not an accuracy or reliability issue, the device may very well be as good as those fingertip ones doctors use; but a regulatory concern. Apple would not want to hold up its release while it gets FDA approval for it to be classified as a medical device in the US; and thus stresses it is not for medical use. Once they do all the testing, get the required proof of effectiveness, they may seek approval ; or simply point out how effective it is and let doctors and users decide how to use and interpret it.
 
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gsmornot

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Sep 29, 2014
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I haven’t even tried this feature yet. I waited to update to WatchOS 7.1 because I knew it would break the feature but not even that was enough. My phone on 14.2 I think was an issue as well. No biggie, I can wait and I have one that goes on your finger.

I thought they would not allow this because the family members health data would load on the phone of the user hosting the watches.
 

MauiPa

macrumors 65816
Apr 18, 2018
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At least on Watch OS 7, Beta 1, it is not currently available. so sayeth apple in release Notes. so sounds like some form of a bug. Or the author is on Beta 1
 
It's quite possible that it is not an accuracy or reliability issue, the device may very well be as good as those fingertip ones doctors use; but a regulatory concern. Apple would not want to hold up its relase while it gets FDA approval for it to be classified as a medical device in the US; and thus stresses it i snot for medical use. Once they do all the testing, get the required proof of effectiveness, they may seek approval ; or simply point out how effective it is and let doctors and users decide how to use and interpret it.

I don't think it will be as accurate as a fingertip pulse oximeter:

"Although we don’t know anything about AW6’s accuracy we do have studies showing us that reflectance oximetry (used in AW6) is not as accurate or stable as transmittance oximetry (used in fingertip pulse oximeters.)"

 

MauiPa

macrumors 65816
Apr 18, 2018
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I haven’t even tried this feature yet. I waited to update to WatchOS 7.1 because I knew it would break the feature but not even that was enough. My phone on 14.2 I think was an issue as well. No biggie, I can wait and I have one that goes on your finger.

I thought they would not allow this because the family members health data would load on the phone of the user hosting the watches.
Good point. I hadn't thought of that, they need to address privacy issues. Not sure if that is why it doesn't work (it is broken in 7.1 Beta 1 per the release notes), but excellent point. How would they address privacy? Not sure if I want my data on my children's phones at all.
 

travelsheep

macrumors 6502a
May 30, 2013
698
711
I think SpO2 measurement will be great in a wife-reader app. When we guys are telling the wife the true reason for xy, the watch can blink if her SpO2 starts to tank (as a result of her holding her breath), and we can know early on that she's not buying our story and that we will in trouble and thus allows us to switch strategies early on when damage is still small.. could be a real life-saver app...
 

MauiPa

macrumors 65816
Apr 18, 2018
1,343
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I don't think it will be as accurate as a fingertip pulse oximeter:

"Although we don’t know anything about AW6’s accuracy we do have studies showing us that reflectance oximetry (used in AW6) is not as accurate or stable as transmittance oximetry (used in fingertip pulse oximeters.)"

Hence, it is not considered a medical device. More of an early warning deal for people with health issues (like BP cuffs in drug stores), and a relativity indicator for others
 
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jlc1978

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Aug 14, 2009
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I don't think it will be as accurate as a fingertip pulse oximeter:

"Although we don’t know anything about AW6’s accuracy we do have studies showing us that reflectance oximetry (used in AW6) is not as accurate or stable as transmittance oximetry (used in fingertip pulse oximeters.)"

Good points and thanks for the article. It will be interesting to see how the AW performs, it may be more useful to identify trends than as an accurate measure at any point in time. If it is inaccurate in a consistent manner it could still be useful for spotting an adveerse pattern or trend. How useful, only time will tell...
 

bLackjackj

macrumors regular
Nov 14, 2016
131
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Apple states that it is only designed for "general fitness and wellness purposes," so that it can release this feature in Markets such as Australia.

The TGA would not approve of the watch being sold, if it were claiming actual health benefits. Not without TGA registration. This way it can just sell to all markets without health approvals.
 

LeadingHeat

macrumors 6502
Oct 3, 2015
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I’m sure this is just so someone can’t hold them liable in a court case. Once the research is done in a year or two that could change perhaps, but for now I see why.
 

Furifo

macrumors 6502
Jun 1, 2010
277
7
I think SpO2 measurement will be great in a wife-reader app. When we guys are telling the wife the true reason for xy, the watch can blink if her SpO2 starts to tank (as a result of her holding her breath), and we can know early on that she's not buying our story and that we will in trouble and thus allows us to switch strategies early on when damage is still small.. could be a real life-saver app...

Try putting on any sats probe or Apple Watch and hold your breath. I guarantee you your sats won’t drop. Your innate physiological mechanism that drives you to gasp and take a breath will activate automatically far before your sats start to drop.

Source: I’m an anaesthetist.
 

seinman

macrumors 6502
Jun 15, 2011
446
355
Philadelphia
Try putting on any sats probe or Apple Watch and hold your breath. I guarantee you your sats won’t drop. Your innate physiological mechanism that drives you to gasp and take a breath will activate automatically far before your sats start to drop.

Source: I’m an anaesthetist.

True, however you ruined the joke.

Source: I have a sense of humor.
 

tegranjeet

macrumors regular
Apr 5, 2019
102
142
Boulder, CO
Try putting on any sats probe or Apple Watch and hold your breath. I guarantee you your sats won’t drop. Your innate physiological mechanism that drives you to gasp and take a breath will activate automatically far before your sats start to drop.

Source: I’m an anaesthetist.

I would love to see this on free divers. They do some weird stuff before diving, although I think it has to do with carbon dioxide flushing. It would be cool to see carbon dioxide monitoring, if it was possible.
 
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