Apple is providing a snapshot of how its products are helping two categories of healthcare: consumers’ personal health and fitness and the general medical community.
“We believe passionately that technology can play a role in improving health outcomes and encouraging people to live a healthier day, and we are excited about the many ways users are benefiting from our health and fitness features, and by the ways third-party developers, institutions, and organizations are using Apple technology to advance health and science,” Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, said in a news release announcing the new report in late July.
Apple has received criticism in the past for not doing as much in the healthcare field compared to competitors like Google and Amazon. Despite the popularity of the Apple Watch, the device doesn’t always get health features up as quickly as competitors do, Bloomberg News reported.
At a Mayo Clinic conference last week, Michael Howell, chief clinical officer of Google, discussed how the company is using artificial intelligence and machine learning to advance healthcare for consumers, caregivers and the community. Howell gave a variety of examples from using Google Fit to track respiratory and heart rates, streamlining radiotherapy treatment and helping with Covid-19 vaccination access.
Apple uses the report to make the case that it is a pioneer in health technology, and will continue to advance in the field with iOS 16 and watchOS 9 coming this fall, which will offer features that focus on 17 areas of health and fitness.
Apple focuses on four main areas when it comes to helping consumers with their health and fitness: providing a secure place to store and view health data using the Health app, features that notify users of possible underlying health conditions, features that allow people to track and improve their everyday health and work with third-party developers so they can create apps that use Apple Watch and iPhone sensors.
The Health app, which was Apple’s first feature for health and fitness, allows users to store more than 150 types of health data, whether it be from the Apple Watch, iPhone or third-party apps and devices. The encrypted data are not shared with third-parties without user permission. In the app, users can privately access their health records, such as medications, immunizations and lab results from participating health organizations in the U.S., U.K. and Canada.
They can also track trends privately in the app, such as heart rate, sleep and cardio. This allows users to see changes in their health, and they can receive coaching if their health indicators are trending downward.
The Apple Watch has features that can notify users of underlying conditions, which helps them act quickly on any health issues. For example, it can notify users if it detects a high heart rate when a user is at rest, or if their heart rate is too low, both of which can be signs of a serious underlying condition.
Another feature the Apple Watch has is fall detection, which is connected with the Emergency SOS feature. If the watch picks up on a hard fall and the user is immobile for a minute, it will call emergency services.
For everyday health, the Apple Watch and iPhone come with features to encourage users to pick up healthy habits, according to the report. The products track activity and sleep, and also offers awards and competition to incentivize users to stay active.
Lastly, third-party developers can track health and fitness using iPhone and Apple Watch sensors. These developers include workout apps like MyFitnessPal, meditation apps like Calm and nutrition apps like WeightWatchers.
For the medical community
Like its consumer offerings, Apple also has four ways of collaborating with the medical community: helping researchers with new scientific discoveries, improving the physician-patient relationship through data, allowing health organizations promote healthy lifestyles and supporting public health and government initiatives.
With the iPhone and Apple Watch, researchers are able to recruit participants for studies on a large scale and gain access to a wealth of data. With the Research app, consumers can also see how the data will be used and easily turn their participation on and off, according to the report.
“With these contributions, and leveraging our sensor technology, researchers can study large and varied groups, obtain frequent data, and, ultimately, analyze data from a broader representation of the population,” the report stated.
Wearables like the Apple Watch also give patients better insight into their health, helping them know when to discuss certain issues with their physicians. Additionally, physicians have a better picture of what’s going on with their patients through the data Apple products track, according to the report.
“Looking at data from wearables such as Apple Watch, and partnering to understand the patient experience, coupled with the information from sensor technology, is a way for us to develop the knowledge that will allow us to take better care of patients. This is the future,” Heather Ross, head of the division of cardiology at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, said in the report.
Additionally, health organizations and insurance companies are working with Apple to add the Apple Watch to their wellness programs. This includes Paceline, which uses AI and wearables to track fitness goals and offers a credit card that rewards consumers for being active.
Lastly, Apple stated in the report that it is supporting public health organizations through its technology. For Covid-19, it provided features for exposure notifications, virtual vaccination cards and more.
Jeff Williams, COO of Apple, said in the report that Apple will continue to build on these features in the future.
“Our vision for the future is to continue to create science-based technology that equips people with even more information and acts as an intelligent guardian for their health, so they’re no longer passengers on their own health journey,” Williams said. “Instead, we want people to be firmly in the driver’s seat with meaningful, actionable insights.”