iWatch – Can An App A Day Keep The Doctor Away?

iWatch – Can An App A Day Keep The Doctor Away?

As the ubiquitous TV commercials and online ads have let us know, the iWatch is here. But what’s up with its promise of offering a “smarter way to look at fitness?”

Let’s first start with Apple’s newly updated Health app, a cross-platform software program that works across multiple Apple devices. It’s been expanded for the iWatch through Apple’s new Healthkit, which allows users to share their data not only between Apple’s own programs but also with other software developers’ health-and fitness apps and with third parties.

Think of Healthkit as intra-app communication. A user’s health information is stored in a centralized and secured location, which then can be shared with others. For example, data from your blood pressure app can be automatically sent to your doctor. Or, you can allow your nutrition app to “tell” your fitness apps how many calories you consume each day.

Health Patterns and Activities

There’s still more good news for the health-conscious. The iWatch features new apps designed to make the wearer generally more in tune with their health activities and patterns.

The Activity app provides a simple visual snapshot of your daily activity, with three rings telling you everything from your caloric intake to when movement is brisk enough to qualify as exercise. It will even alert you to when you’ve been sitting too much and nudges you to get up on your feet and if not move, then at least stand for awhile. You can view your Activity rings, workouts, and achievements by the day, week, or month. And the Activity app can share your fitness data with the Health app on your iPhone, where it can be accessed by your other favorite health and fitness apps.

During a dedicated cardio workout, the Workout app built into Apple Watch shows real-time stats like elapsed time, distance, calories, pace and speed for a variety of the most popular activities, including running, using the elliptical and cycling — indoors or out. While these results will be useful, it cannot rival the precision and comprehensiveness of a functional movement assessment.

When you reach your personal bests or hit milestones, iWatch is quick to congratulate. You’ll get a special badge for each achievement, which is then stored in the Activity app on your iPhone. In theory, that gives you encouragement to keep going and keep improving.

How Does It Translate To Healthcare Providers?

Though wearables are not new to the healthcare market, the way Apple has infiltrated this industry is different from Fitbit or other wearable technology. There are plenty of wearables that track sleep, steps you take and distance you’ve traveled daily, pulse, heart rate, calories burned, blood sugar and cholesterol – all of which the iWatch will do. However, the iWatch is the first with the capability to send that data directly to users’ doctors, trainers, nutritionists, etc.

Now, while on paper, sending health data to your healthcare provider sounds like a good idea, in practice it’s not nearly as seamless. At least not yet. Most doctors are in catch-up mode, still processing how to best use the information. Understandably, too, there is also a lot of skepticism that comes along with any new technology because of the high expectations. With every new device, there are always bugs and fixes to be worked out, and the iWatch likely will be no different.

Wearables also seem to have a very short shelf life, meaning that people are initially excited to use the new products, but studies that about a third of these early adopters will stop wearing them after six months. But maybe the iWatch will beat the odds. It’s already a status and fashion statement so perhaps that will further incentive wearers to wear it.

As more personal and confidential information is shared across the cloud, no doubt there will be more debate surrounding security and privacy issues. Apple has taken steps to ensure the user’s privacy by mandating that apps using HealthKit neither store information on the cloud, nor send it without user consent.

Will the iWatch revolutionize healthcare by sharing key health metrics between patient and provider? The iWatch is breathlessly new, meaning only time will tell (pardon the pun). Until more data and more experience with the technology and apps becomes available, we just won’t know whether the iWatch will go the fabulously successful way of the iPod, iPhone and iPad or the oft-tweaked but ultimately forgettable Apple TV.

Sources:

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  8. http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2015/04/25/402039156/as-health-apps-hop-on-the-apple-watch-privacy-will-be-key. As Health Apps Hop On The Apple Watch, Privacy Will Be Key.
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  2. http://mobihealthnews.com/36396/long-awaited-apple-watch-tracks-heart-rate-activity-calories-but-not-sleep/. Long-awaited Apple Watch tracks heart rate, activity, calories burned, but not sleep.
  3. http://mobihealthnews.com/40874/misinformation-about-apple-watchs-health-features-spreads/. Misinformation about Apple Watch’s health features spreads.
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