The Death Watch: How the Apple Watch will move from fashion piece to healthcare lifeline
Jun26

The Death Watch: How the Apple Watch will move from fashion piece to healthcare lifeline

While much of the initial conversation surrounding the Apple Watch focused on the company’s entrance into the fashion industry, the more enduring story centers around the Watch’s implications for healthcare. Rather than its aesthetics, it’s the device’s consolidation of health benefits that guarantees the smartwatch will remain in vogue. Though the most obvious potential of the Watch lies in its ability to passively gather health information about its user — activity level and heart rate, for example — it is the Watch’s integration with the iPhone Health app that positions the flashy timepiece as a game-changing medical device. Using Apple’s new HealthKit framework, developers of wearable sensors like glucose monitors and activity trackers are able to funnel their data to the Apple Health app, consolidating a user’s health information in a single easily accessed interface. In this way, Apple is building on the success of one of the first ‘wearables’: the MedicAlert bracelet. A modern medical bracelet Perhaps best known by millennials for their daytime infomercials, the MedicAlert details allergies, existing conditions, and other immediately pertinent information about the state of the wearer’s health. Were you to keel over, a responder would be able to immediately see that you are allergic to a certain drug without having to consult a complicated medical record or a bystander’s unreliable memory. By potentially providing immediate access to a patient’s entire medical history, Apple takes this MedicAlert concept several steps further. In anticipation of HealthKit and the Health app, Apple partnered with electronic medical record giant Epic. According to iMedicalApps, Epic — a privately-held company whose whimsical Wisconsin campus puts most Silicon Valley compounds to shame — maintains over 50 percent of electronic patient medical records in the U.S. In response to increasing governmental pressure, Epic took steps in the last decade to make that information available to patients. Even so, few individuals choose to access their records on casual, regular basis. It’s too much of a hassle. But suppose people did access their records faithfully. There is still too much information that escapes medical records like visits to clinics that do not use Epic, exercise routines, diet, blood glucose monitors, and, yes, heart rate.  A one-stop health-shop Enter the union of the Apple Watch and the Health app. By absorbing your Epic health history and enriching it with your real-time health stats, the device serves as a comprehensive record of your health. Think of it as a one-stop health-shop for the quantified self. By keeping patients records handy, so to speak, the barriers to accessing electronic health records are dramatically lowered. Patient health awareness (and health outcomes) will improve, in turn. While this “health hub” functionality is a part of the iPhone Health app packaged with iOS 8, Apple strategically synced Health’s September...

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