Doctors at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have begun testing an app on the Apple Watch to help people with epilepsy monitor seizures.

Dubbed EpiWatch, the software uses a combination of patient response data and sensor data to detect and measure a seizure. When a patient feels the onset of a seizure, he or she taps an icon to start the app which, in turn, activates sensors to begin collecting heart rate and body movement data.

John Hopkins Watch InfographicAbout 500 patients are already using the EpiWatch app daily and have agreed to share their usage and seizure data with Johns Hopkins researchers, who hope to use that data to ultimately predict seizures before they happen.

“We think we can detect seizures based on convulsions, or on the ability to respond to the app when the app detects a heart rate change,” Nathan Crone, MD, told Fast Company.

The detection power of the app comes from integrating the biometric data from the heart rate sensor and movement sensors with the user awareness data.

Crone and his colleague Gregory Krauss, MD, think they can improve on the detection of seizures by adding more early-stage patient response functions to prompt users with the app.

“A seizure detector might encourage patients to go out and do things by themselves maybe that they wouldn’t otherwise do, or maybe their parents would feel more comfortable leaving them alone, or maybe their spouse would be able to leave them alone,” Crone said. “That could affect quality of life in a big way.”