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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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Dexcom teases Apple Watch for diabetes monitoring at CES

Dexcom teases Apple Watch for diabetes monitoring at CES | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

As digital health continues to extend into the mainstream, continuous glucose monitor (CGM) manufacturer Dexcom took advantage of the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to unveil a simulated Apple Watch displaying live demo glucose readings from a Dexcom CGM.


As pictured on the right, the Apple Watch display is fairly similar to the current Dexcom receiver’s. It displays the current blood sugar reading, a graph of recent blood sugars, and  a trend arrow (telling the user whether their glucose trend is sharply upwards, upwards, flat, downwards, or sharply downwards). From the demo, there is no indication if the Apple Watch app will have any other features such as alarms, calibration, etc.

I believe this is the first time any diabetes device manufacturer has publicly shown any demonstration of continuous glucose data being transmitted wirelessly to a smartwatch.  The closest demonstration would be Medtronic live streaming glucose readings from their CGM to an iPhone display this past Fall.

Currently, there are no official solutions that stream glucose data to smart watches.  For the tech-savvy, a NightScout community exists that helps users “hack” their CGM’s into streaming glucose data to the cloud. In comparison, out-of-the-box synchronization to mobile devices would be a huge step for continuous glucose monitors, and the recent demos by Dexcom and Medtronic suggest that the FDA approval landscape for diabetes technology is loosening.


In a CES Digital Health session titled “Winning the War on Diabetes”, Dexcom’s Steve Pacelli (pictured second to left), Executive Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Development, announced that “[Dexcom's] 5th generation system will transfer data from the sensor to the phone.”

This would represent a significant upgrade over current G4 solutions that require a separate product (the recently approved Dexcom Share) to serve as an intermediary device between the smartphone and Dexcom receiver. Dexcom’s 5th gen release would eliminate the need for a Share-like receiver and could potentially even eliminate the receiver.

With respect to the Dexcom booth’s Apple Watch demo, it was unclear if the Apple Watch integration is coming for the Dexcom Share (and therefore current G4 systems) or for the future G5 release. However, it’s worth noting that the demo was running inside Apple’s developer kit, which means that the display was running actual software code and not just a mockup.

Furthermore, unlike Medtronic which has officially gone on record stating that Apple HealthKit integration is not part of initial plans for their upcoming smartphone systems, Dexcom’s booth prominently featured Apple Watch and Apple HealthKit in their signage.


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Apple's New Plan For Healthcare: The Doctor Will Track You Now

Apple's New Plan For Healthcare: The Doctor Will Track You Now | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

An Apple relay will keep your doctor’s fears allayed.

That’s the plan, at least, behind the company’s growing health care strategy: To use the Apple HealthKit platform to collect real-time data from iPhones, the soon-to-be-released Apple Watch, and other devices — and connect it to hospitals, doctors, and your electronic medical records.

More than a dozen top hospitals already are piloting Apple’s HealthKit software, Christina Farr reported Thursday in an exclusive for Reuters.

This isn’t a surprise. Five months ago, details leaked that Mayo Clinic had teamed up to test several health care applications for the iPhone, such as a service to alert patients when their Apple apps detected abnormal health results, and help schedule them for follow-up visits.


And at the September debut for the iPhone 6, Apple officials said that they’d struck partnerships with a number of other top hospitals, like Stanford University Hospital and Duke University.

The two medical centers last year began helping Apple test whether chronically ill patients could use HealthKit to remotely track and manage their symptoms.

A similar trial is now underway at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, where providers are seeing if HealthKit can help several hundred patients control their blood pressure. The patients use sensors and other devices to remotely measure their blood pressure and other clinical indicators, and send the data to Apple phones and tablets through HealthKit.


Apple plans to use its new Watch as part of its strategy to move into the U.S. health care market.

Ochsner also has launched what it’s calling the “O Bar” — the hospital’s version of Apple’s Genius Bar — to help patients pick between different health and fitness apps for their iPhones, and teach them how to use them.

Are Apple’s Rivals Playing Catch-Up?

What is surprising is how far ahead Apple is compared to purported rivals, Google and Samsung.

According to Farr, Google has developers working on applications for its Google Fit service, but hasn’t appeared to make major inroads among the top hospitals yet. Samsung’s own health care platform also has lagged Apple HealthKit on both hype and deal-making.

The market potential for these companies is significant, to say the least: The U.S. spends about $3 trillion each year on health care, and all the incentives are pushing hospitals and doctors to get better at remotely managing patients’ symptoms.

Being able to see real-time data for chronically ill Americans could offer significant financial and clinical benefits. For instance, tracking their health and fitness could encourage positive behaviors that reduce the cost of doctor visits and other treatments. And doctors could use the data to be proactive when a person’s health appears to be taking a turn for the worse.

There are several major hurdles before realizing that vision, however.

For example, Apple appears to have pinned some of its health care-hopes on the Apple Watch, which launches in April. But early indications suggest that the device’s initial applications for health care may be limited; based on current reports, there’s very little chance that the Watch will come with a breakthrough technology, like a built-in glucose monitor.

(However, the Watch may display updates from a separate glucose monitor, per this demonstration last month.)

If Apple Watch can’t add much unique health care value, it may face a practical problem: Regardless of how cool the technology is, most Americans end up abandoning their wristbands and other smart-tech wearables.


And simply introducing new data streams isn’t so simple in health care. Hospitals already are juggling the pressure of protecting patients’ medical information, with hackers constantly trying to penetrate their systems, while trying to identify and organize the data that they do need.

“This is a whole new data source that we don’t understand the integrity of yet,” according to William Hanson, chief medical information officer at the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

So unlike the launch of the iPad — where Apple essentially redefined the tablet computer market overnight — the company will almost certainly need months or years to fully realize its health care strategy.

“There are unrealistic expectations for when and how mobile health is going to come together,” Patty Mechael, former executive director of the mHealth Alliance, told the MIT Technology Review last summer. “We are somewhere between the peak of the hype cycle and the trough of disillusionment,” she added.

Of course, Apple may defy the odds. For one, it’s Apple — the company can create buzz by simply posting a job opening. More than 600 developers are already integrating HealthKit into their health and fitness apps, helping ensure that Apple’s new software is already becoming an industry standard.

That kind of scale and momentum is the key reason why Apple stands apart.

John Halamka, the chief information officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an informal adviser to Apple, told Reuters that many patients at his hospital already use Jawbone trackers and other devices to collect personal health and fitness data.

“Can I interface to every possible device that every patient uses?” Halamka asked ruefully. “No.”

“But Apple can.”

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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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