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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Game changers: A blood-scanning wearable is officially in the works
Jun02

Game changers: A blood-scanning wearable is officially in the works

Activity trackers have gained in popularity over the past few years with companies like Fitbit and Jawbone regularly releasing cheaper, better looking, and more efficient models. Garmin recently took it a step further with an optical heart rate monitor installed inside its Forerunner 225 watch. But while these devices regulate, track, even sometimes enforce healthy behavior, the question of how helpful they truly are to your health is a longstanding one. Two scientists at Stanford’s Start X incubator Echo Labs may change the face of wearable technology within the health industry with a product that is undoubtedly groundbreaking. Pierre-Jean Cobut and Elad Ferber spent the last two years creating a non-invasive wearable prototype that uses optical signals to “measure oxygen, CO2, PH, hydration and blood pressure levels in the blood,” scanning and monitoring blood composition. Meaning, essentially, it sees through skin. The founders have succeeded where others — including kingpin Apple — have failed. The difficulty in using optic sensors to measure blood stats rests in the interference of “noise,” which is any and all external factors including movement, light, and skin color. The algorithm created by Echo Labs effectively cuts through this noise much like a hospital pulse oximeter, but the difference here is that the “algorithm is robust enough to continuously measure blood composition whether a wearer is running or sitting at a desk,” says Ferber. More exciting still is the possibility of monitoring glucose levels through a wearable, eradicating all need for needles and making the lives of diabetes patients far safer and easier. Although the technology is still in its beginning stages, Cobut and Ferber have said that they are already fielding enquiries from medical companies in all fields of the healthcare industry. We are excited to see what the final product will look...

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