Apple’s new Health app set to debut along with Watch, linking action to medical data

September 12, 2014

On September 9, Apple revealed the Apple Watch, saying it can help people lead healthier lives. It joins a growing list of new health innovations including Health and HealthKit, set launch in September.

On September 9 Apple revealed the Apple Watch with the promise that it can help people lead healthier lives.

The Watch, available in early 2015, includes an activity app, a workout app, accelerometer, and a built-in heart rate sensor.

It’s one more piece in Apple’s growing cadre of health and wellness products that “might be the beginning of a health revolution,” the company says.

It joins another innovation, Apple Health, available for download on September 17 along with Apple’s new iOS 8 operating system. Health will give users an easy to read dashboard of health and fitness data, according to Apple, which touts it as “an entirely new way to use your health and fitness information.”

The developer component of Health, known as Apple HealthKit, also will become available in September. The open framework will allow third party developers to create applications that synch with Health.  But Apple warns in its developer guidelines that apps that store users’ health information in the cloud will be rejected.

Apple is stressing the safety of the Health platform following the recent wide-scale hack of data stored in its iCloud.  The Health app website says that users can decide which apps to share health data with, and it notes that data is encrypted.

The Mayo Clinic is an early partner with Apple. Currently, Mayo Clinic patients can  view lab and radiology results on their Mayo Clinic Patient apps, according to John Wald, M.D., medical director for marketing at the Mayo Clinic. That data will soon synch with HealthKit, Wald told Politico.

“Right now there is a very limited amount of data that can be contained within HealthKit. The types of data will be known when the app is released as part of iOS 8. In the future, I presume this will be expanded,” said Wald.  

Apple also has partnered with Epic Systems Corporation, the nation’s largest electronic health record (EHR) vendor. As previously reported in Medical Economics, about 40% of the U.S. population has its medical information stored in an Epic EHR.

Patients whose providers currently use the Epic EHR system now can view their health data on their smartphones through Epic’s MyChart app. Epic’s Haiku app will give physicians secure and portable access to patient charts, according to the Epic website, and allow patients to send information to their physicians and integrate with HealthKit.

Google announced in June that it will roll out its new Anroid L operating system this fall. The release will include Google Fit, a new open platform that will allow developers to build fitness apps more easily. On August 7 Google released the code that would allow developers to get started.

Is GoogleFit’s goal to make doctor visits obsolete?

Samsung also announced its Sami platform this spring that will compete with the Google and Apple health platforms.

The Apple Watch isn’t the first smartwatch, but it has the potential to tie action into usable data through HealthKit apps, according to Apple. As previously reported in Medical Economics, only half of all people who own a wearable health device use them. Incorporating that functionality into a wider interface like a cellphone, smartwatch or Google Glass might change that, say experts.

Android wearable devices that can utilize the Google Fit platform, including the Motorola Moto360, will compete with the Apple Watch. And though it’s still in beta testing, Google Glass could also be a player in the wearable health market.

Apple also has a patent on a biometric headphone system that can sense a variety of metrics including temperature, heart rate and perspiration levels, according to AppleInsider.