The new Apple Watch Series 6. Photo: Apple

The newest version of the Apple Watch is part of a slew of devices that enable people to monitor their health away from a doctor's office.

Why it matters: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a shift to health monitoring in the home, and companies are rushing to meet the demand.

What's happening: Apple on Tuesday announced its Watch Series 6, with a focus on the device's health capabilities.

  • Already able to detect heart rate, perform an electrocardiogram and track physical activity, the new version can now determine blood oxygen levels through LED clusters and photodiodes.
  • Blood oxygen saturation can be a useful indicator of health, especially during the pandemic. Many severe cases of COVID-19 are marked by alarmingly low blood oxygen levels, even before patients begin experiencing respiratory distress.

Details: The new Apple Watch is one of many remote health monitoring devices being rolled out by tech and health companies alike.

  • The change is being driven by more accurate devices as well as a shift in patients themselves, who increasingly want to optimize wellness, not just avoid illness.
  • "This is a golden moment for distributed medicine and at-home diagnostics," says Siddarth Satish, the CEO of Gauss, a machine-vision startup that developed the first completely at-home COVID-19 test with the biotech company Cellex.

Yes, but: It's still not clear exactly how many of these devices "ultimately fit into a user’s care continuum," notes Erin Brodwin in STAT News.

Go deeper: Apple just significantly deepened its bet on services

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