BY BEN LOVEJOY
There’s a mobile health care revolution underway. Soon, the days of family doctors asking, “So, how are you feeling?” may come to an end. Within a year, doctors will have access to all the information they need — from your exercise regime to your blood sugar levels and everything in between — just by consulting data collected by your smartphone.
Fitness bands have come a long way from their origins. Once they were motion sensors that measured your activity level during the course of a day and displayed data in the form of colored LEDs; today, they’re pedometers, perspiration measurers and burned-calorie counters. They use Bluetooth ANT+ sensors to measure cycling cadence and power output. They pull data from gym equipment. And they can even measure the quality and quantity of your sleep in a given night.
Apple CEO Tim Cook mentioned that “wearables are key” at the AllThingsD conference and he wasn’t joking. For the iWatch, Apple pulled together an incredibly talented team from all aspects of the watch and fitness band industries. Although there were some hiccups at the start, Healthkit is
Health Oriented Wearables
With current fitness bands and sensors, the only way you can access data is via its accompanying app. The steps and activity data from the Nike Fuel Band are displayed in the Nike+ app, the cycling data from the Garmin bike computer appears in the Garmin Connect app and so on. It’s messy and fragmented.
HealthKit collates data from all of your fitness and health monitoring devices into one iPhone app. In fact, several popular apps like Map My Run, My Fitness Pal, AskMD Stay Well are already on the market and thoughtfully integrated into Apple’s HealthKit. One app called Lark functions like Apple’s HealthKit by pulling in all the user’s fitness, sleep, and nutrition data from several other apps and then gives them a summary assessment of their progression via encouraging text-like messages. It aims to provide users with a comprehensive picture of their health and fitness levels at the tap of a finger.
This marks a significant shift in what kinds of data are measured and in what happens to that data once it has been collected, and that’s just a superficial approach to the HeathKit’s potential. Many foresee the HealthKit as the first real step towards a completely new healthcare paradigm and are investing in a software strategy that integrates with it. “We believe Apple’s HealthKit will revolutionize how the health industry interacts with people,” says Mayo Clinic CEO, John H. Noseworthy. “We are proud to be at the forefront of this innovative technology with the Mayo Clinic app.”
The Epic & Cerner Partnerships
What makes HealthKit so powerful? It isn’t just individuals who will have access to the collected data: Apple has also announced a partnership with Epic & Cerner. Anyone who works in health care is familiar with Epic & Cerner, together they make up approximately three-fourths of the Electronic Health Records (EHR) industry in America. Currently, those medical records contain only data and diagnoses entered into the system by medical professionals, at checkups and during hospital visits. With the Apple partnership, all that is going to change. With patients’ permission, data gathered routinely by Apple’s HeathKit — pulled in from the sensors available in the iWatch as well as all other health and fitness devices that talk to the iPhone — would also form part of the patient’s EHR. The Health app can then be used as an entry point for accessing that data.
Now, your doctor won’t need to ask whether you’ve been exercising or following your diet plan. She won’t need to ask diabetics for the blood sugar readings they’ve been taking, nor wonder how accurately they have been noted. She won’t need to measure your blood pressure or put you on a treadmill to determine your resting heart rate. All she’ll need to do is read that data from your EHR, perhaps even before you arrive. “And while there is obviously an appropriate sensitivity to the mobility and accessibility of patient EHRs, when patients are informed and empowered in this way, the quality of care inevitably rises,” say Chaotic Moon Studios EVP, John Fremont. “We see Apple’s HealthKit providing a more democratic, user-centered healthcare platform where hospitals, health insurance, pharmaceutical and device companies will eventually compete directly for patients, like consumers. Unlike when Google tried to get in this space a few years ago, people are more tech-savvy, and more accustomed to integrating software in their lives to reap the benefits. This is the future.”
In fact, for some patients, that data may be the reason the doctor called them in the first place. Predefined triggers can flag abnormal readings and send an alert to your physician. “For a sub-specialty like cardiac, we’re monitored on what our 30-day readmission rates are,” says Mayo Clinic Medical Director Dr. John Wald. “This gives us the ability to have the patient monitored at home with a variety of devices and move the information into the data aggregator, HealthKit. Our doctors can pull the vital numbers they need into the electronic medical record as a permanent catalog, and intervene if they need to. We can keep patients at home or pull them back into the hospital if we need to interact with them sooner.”
Communication between HealthKit and the patient’s EHR won’t necessarily be one-directional. It could well be the case that, having received and interpreted data from the EHR, a doctor may feed back advice to a patient through the Health app, advising him to increase his activity levels or cut back on sugar. One thing is for sure: The health care industry will never be the same. For any health care companies not already making plans to be a part of Healthkit, the clock is ticking.
Chaos Theory is a Chaotic Moon Studios publication. We are a creative technology studio in Austin, TX obsessed with creating innovative user-centered design and developing intelligent custom software for the world’s biggest and best brands. To engage us about a potential project, send an email to email@example.com