Apple's New Hires, iOS Rumors Point to Health Care Shake-Up

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2014-02-05 Print this article Print

"The software is also programmed to allow users to enter details about their medications so that they could be reminded to take pills at scheduled times," it continued. "This will likely integrate with iOS's existing Reminders application."

In short, Healthbook could be the way users read and interact with the data collected by the iWatch.

What Health Care Needs

Dr. Atul Gawande, writing (excellently) in The New Yorker in 2012, used the business model of the Cheesecake Factory to ask whether the efficiencies and protocols that make such chain restaurants so successful couldn't also benefit health care—an industry with, from one hospital or doctor's office to the next, tremendous variations.

Concluding his article, Gawande wrote: "Reinventing medical care could produce hundreds of innovations. Some may be as simple as giving patients greater email and online support from their clinicians, which would enable timelier advice and reduce the need for emergency-room visits.

"Others might involve smartphone apps for coaching the chronically ill in the management of their disease, new methods for getting advice from specialists, sophisticated systems for tracking outcomes and costs, and instant delivery to medical teams of up-to-date protocols. Innovations could take a system that requires sixty-three clinicians for a knee replacement and knock the number down by half or more," he wrote.

Could Apple usher in such needed innovations?

Forrester Senior Analyst Skip Snow says the current "core problem" with linking smartphones to devices that can monitor users via skin contact is the overwhelming amount of power consumption required.

"If Apple is committed to solving the data transmission problem … they would really have a competitive advantage," Snow told eWEEK. "All the other problems are basically solved."

Still, were Apple to offer such a technology, plenty of new questions would arise.

"There are two classes of apps that communicate with health-monitoring devices," said Snow. "One is a wellness app, which means you, the user, are responsible for stewarding that information, and the other is a health app, where the information is winding up inside a health record."

In the case of the latter, he explained, there would be the daunting matter, for Apple, of establishing the necessary health care partnerships and ensuring regulation-compliant security levels, but also the opportunity for anonymized data to be collected and used for evidence-based medical research—and to encourage app developers to create of a host of health-centric apps.

The extent to which people are willing to compromise their privacy in exchange for the benefits that sharing their medical information can provide is very much still being determined, said Snow.

"I speak to that issue about three or four times a day," he said. "It's an understood issue in healthcare today."

Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.



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