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How the Apple Watch Will Help You Take Charge of Your Health

How the Apple Watch Will Help You Take Charge of Your Health | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Looking at its hardware, the Apple Watch might not seem all that different from other wearables: a touchscreen display, a heart rate sensor, haptic feedback for taps and notifications, a mic for voice controls. Even so, it is poised to have a major impact on connected health management. As with the iPhone, it’s the software that will move the needle.

“What excites me the most about the Apple Watch is its ability to build positive habits,” says Jeremy Olson, founder of Tapity. Tapity is an award-winning app maker with plans for Watch apps. “The killer apps will be the ones that make positive interactions so convenient and front-of-mind that users can’t help but live healthier, more productive lives.”

After revealing its watch to the world in late September, Apple gave developers access to the Apple Watch API (WatchKit) in November. Developers currently have only limited access, but it’s becoming clear that won’t keep it from becoming a powerful, popular consumer tool, particularly with regards to health management. Services focused on tracking health will be able to use the Watch interface to display relevant, up-to-the-minute statistics in a way that’s more convenient than on a smartphone, or on a monitoring device’s screen. It will do this using the processing power of your iPhone, rather than a mobile chip onboard the watch itself, and updates will be sent to the watch wirelessly.

The patient who only wants to track weight and steps can use the same platform to capture lung function and blood glucose.

DexCom Monitor will work this way. It will use the Apple Watch to show blood glucose levels for Type 1 diabetics by presenting an easy-to-read graph on the smartwatch’s display. The glucose information itself is tracked from DexCom’s monitor, a tiny Class III medical device positioned under the skin. It measures glucose levels every five minutes, transmits the data to a phone app, and then the app sends the graph images to the smartwatch.

Respiratory health tracking will also get a boost from the Watch’s platform. Cohero Health is working on an Apple Watch app so asthmatics can better track their medical adherence and lung function. The company currently makes an inhaler strap and mobile spirometer, a Class II medical device that captures important respiratory performance metrics like functional expiratory volume (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC) levels. These sync with its AsthmaHero mobile app, which tracks this data for the user and relays it to their healthcare provider through HealthKit.

For Cohero Health CEO Melissa Manice, the beauty of the Apple Watch is that it doesn’t make health tracking burdensome anymore. It de-stigmatizes chronic illness.

“The patient who only wants to track weight and steps can use the same platform that can also capture lung function and blood glucose,” Manice says. “It levels the playing field.”

But managing a chronic disease often requires long-term changes to a person’s lifestyle. Malay Gandhi, managing director at Rock Health, says that giving people continuous feedback, prompting and reminding them at the right times, is key to inducing those sorts of lifestyle changes. Wrist-based notifications are perfect for this.

Take Propeller Health, another tool for those with respiratory conditions. In addition to monitoring inhaler usage with the company’s Bluetooth sensor, its location-sensing mobile app tracks weather, pollen count, and air quality (along with other personal trigger factors) to notify a patient when conditions arise that might initiate an asthma attack. The notifications are personalized and contextually relevant, and since they’re on the wrist, they could be even less obtrusive than they are on a smartphone. Current users of the app see a significant reduction in rescue inhaler use—and more asthma free days. Propeller Health plans to begin work on an Apple Watch app after it begins shipping.

The Apple Watch could lure in new users who never previously thought about tracking their fitness activities because now they’ll get the functionality and convenience for “free.”

Gandhi, whose company Rock Health wants “to fund the first iconic company” to take advantage of the wrist interface for health monitoring, also sees the Apple Watch being useful in supporting good mental health.

“I use an anxiety coaching app, and it would be helpful to get prompts throughout the day rather than whenever I have an opportunity to open the app,” Gandhi says.

And of course, the Apple Watch has the potential to make fitness and activity tracking more accessible, especially to new users. Runtastic CEO and co-founder Florian Gschwandtner thinks the Watch will intrigue people new to fitness-tracking by letting them play with types of data they’ve never seen before. He first saw this when his company’s app debuted on the iPhone.

“People weren’t previously aware of the ability to track their runs and soon, they were nearly addicted to doing so,” Gschwandtner says. The Apple Watch could lure in new users who never previously thought about tracking their activities because now they’ll get the functionality and convenience for “free.”

The watch could even potentially help you make better decisions when you’re having a night on the town. Breathalyzer maker BACtrack is working on an Apple Watch app that will work with its Mobile and Vio smartphone breathalyzers. It adds a bit of convenience: users will be able to test their blood alcohol content by tapping the Apple Watch and then blowing into the BACtrack, leaving their phone in their pocket. Sure, it’s mostly a novelty. But sometimes, that little bit of convenience is all it takes for people to increase their engagement with a product.

Apple is reportedly assisting developers at its Cupertino headquarters so their WatchKit apps are primed for launch day. Take this as evidence that the Apple Watch apps we are learning about now are only a fraction of what we’ll see in the days and months following its April launch. But if what we see on launch day is anywhere near as impressive as the tidbits we’re learning about during this lead up, we can expect big steps toward better health management.


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Melanie Ferreira's curator insight, February 24, 2015 2:29 AM

Think this will be a change in the fitness history!

David Greene's curator insight, February 24, 2015 8:20 PM

Good for Apple - innovation leading the way to better health...

Little Moose's curator insight, February 25, 2015 11:57 AM

I can't wait to try one of these!

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Why the Apple Watch Left Healthcare Enthusiasts Disappointed, Yet Hopeful

Why the Apple Watch Left Healthcare Enthusiasts Disappointed, Yet Hopeful | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Rarely are we introduced to something so extraordinarily innovative and revolutionary that we’re incapable of fully comprehending it’s power, while still being left feeling somewhat unsatisfied. For healthcare enthusiasts, however, this was the case this past Tuesday during Apple’s September 2014 Keynote that introduced the world to the all-new Apple Watch.

  


Make no mistake; the Apple Watch is a groundbreaking trailblazer – a first-generation device with a level of functionality unlike anything we’ve seen before. So what’s the issue? It might not seem reasonable that something so unprecedented can leave us disappointed, and perhaps our initial expectations were unrealistic. Yet still, strictly from a healthcare standard, there is more to be desired.

  

For months now, we’ve been hit with a barrage of rumors and predictions regarding the Apple Watch’s healthcare-related capabilities. In June, Apple officially stepped foot into the healthcare field when it introduced it’s “Health” app and cloud-based health-information platform called, “HealthKit.” There is no denying that Apple is fully committed to pioneering the correspondence between wearable’s and healthcare, they just might not be at stage we had hoped based on the information given in the Keynote – although it should be known that Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, did make it point to emphasize that there will be additional features that were not discussed due to time restrictions.

  

As we now know, many of the rumors and predictions we hear about future Apple products are not exactly reliable - look at what people thought the first iPhone would look like. So it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that the watch cannot accurately predict heart attacks, and we shouldn’t be shocked that it cannot analyze our sweat. What was rather disappointing was that for the most part, Apple’s healthcare plans were not discussed at all.

  

During the program, Jay Blahnik, Apple’s Director of Fitness and Health Technologies described the watch as, “a comprehensive health and fitness device.” Judging strictly from what we saw during the Keynote, however, it seems that the fitness aspect is much more advanced than the health side of things. As a result, while many of us hoped the watch would be a more complete medical device, the reality is that it bears a much closer resemblance to nothing more than a high-powered fitness tracker.

  

Based on Apple’s track record from previous product releases, as well as their tight-lipped knack keeping information on unreleased products away from the public, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that the Health app and HealthKit are much more comprehensive than the keynote led on. That having been said, other than the fitness features, there were practically no other mentions of Apple’s long-awaited healthcare strategy. There were even rumors that Mayo Clinic, who has been working closely with Apple on these products for the past two years, was going to play a role in presenting the health features. Unfortunately, that presentation, along with most of the health-related information, was cut from the program.

  

While the initial presentation on the Apple Watch may have failed to live up to our expectations, one can certainly still see the potential impact that these devices can have on the healthcare industry. The inevitable emergence of wearable devices, such as the Apple Watch, has long been considered to be the next major step in healthcare’s revolutionary migration towards an industry more dependent on technology. Well, here it comes.

  

The sensor-technology that was unveiled during the fitness potion of the presentation will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in the Apple Watch’s ability to improve healthcare. One of the biggest problems in healthcare today is our inability to provide around-the-clock, continuous care. This is where the sensors ability to constantly monitor our vitals can transform the way we collect and share basic information with our doctors. It’s not unfathomable that these wearable devices are capable of detecting early warning signs of asthma attacks, epileptic seizures, and possibly even heart attacks. The technology of these devices doesn’t merely change the way we receive care from our doctors, but our ability to care for ourselves.

  

“The list of features is a mile long, and I’m certain that when developers get their hands on the developer kit, that list will get even longer, and there will be things that we couldn’t even imagine invented”

- Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

  

The future is certainly bright. Were we hoping for more? Yes. But it’s only a matter of time until the Apple Watch is an essential component of healthcare and a monumental influence on our ability to deliver the best care possible. We’re not unimpressed, just unsatisfied – for now.



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