The Apple Watch will soon be able to track tremors experienced by Parkinson's Disease patients to help them manage their condition.
Later this year, Apple will release a software update to make it easier for medical researchers to understand the difference between a random movement, and the shakes and dyskinesia that Parkinson's patients experience when they're getting treated with medications.
Apple made the announcement this week at its developer conference, WWDC.
The new "movement disorder API" will accelerate research that's already underway in how wearable devices can be used to track the progression of Parkinson's, said Peter Schmidt, a Parkinson's researcher and vice dean of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, who has been advising Apple's health team.
About 60,000 people are diagnosed every year with Parkinson's in the U.S. alone and an estimated 10 million people have the disease globally. Not all of these patients will have access to an Apple Watch, or be able to afford one, but Apple is starting to work with health insurance companies like Aetna in figuring out ways to subsidize the cost.
Eventually, according to Schmidt, if the results are promising, it could change how Parkinson's patients are treated, as long as doctors understand how to interpret data from wearable devices.