Apple offers a snapshot of how its products support two categories of healthcare: the personal health and fitness of consumers and the general medical community.
In both categories of healthcare Apple works with third-party developers, healthcare institutions and organizations to provide innovative technology, the company said in nearly 60 pages report.
“We strongly believe that technology can play a role in improving health outcomes and encouraging people to live healthier days, and we’re excited by the many ways users are benefiting from our health and fitness features and the nature and how third-party developers, institutions, and organizations use Apple technology to advance health and science,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, in a press release Announcement of the new report at the end of July.
Apple has received criticism in the past for not doing as much in healthcare compared to competitors like Google and Amazon. Despite the Apple Watch’s popularity, the device isn’t always getting health features as fast as the competition, Bloomberg News reported.
At a Mayo Clinic conference last week, Michael Howell, Google’s chief clinical officer, discussed how the company is doing use artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve healthcare for consumers, caregivers and the community. Howell gave a variety of examples of using Google Fit to track breathing and heart rates, optimize radiation therapy treatment and help with access to Covid-19 vaccinations.
Apple uses the report to claim that it’s a pioneer in health tech, and will continue in this space with iOS 16 and watchOS 9 coming this fall, offering features focused on 17 areas of health and fitness advance.
Apple focuses on four main areas when it comes to helping consumers with their health and fitness: providing a safe place to store and view health data with the Health app, features that inform users of possible underlying health conditions, features, people use to track and improve their day-to-day health, and work with third-party developers to create apps that use Apple Watch and iPhone sensors.
The Health app, Apple’s first health and fitness feature, allows users to store more than 150 types of health data, whether it’s from the Apple Watch, iPhone, or third-party apps and devices. The encrypted data will not be shared with third parties without the user’s consent. In the app, users can privately access their health records such as medications, vaccinations, and lab results from participating health organizations in the US, UK, and Canada.
You can also track trends like heart rate, sleep, and cardio privately within the app. This allows users to see changes in their health and they can receive coaching when their health indicators are trending down.
The Apple Watch has features that can alert users to underlying medical conditions, helping them respond quickly to health issues. For example, it can alert users when it detects a high heart rate when a user is at rest, or when their heart rate is too low, both of which can be indicators of a serious underlying condition.
Another feature of the Apple Watch is fall detection, which is linked to the Emergency SOS feature. If the watch is caught from a hard fall and the user is immobile for one minute, it will call emergency services.
For everyday health, the Apple Watch and iPhone have features designed to encourage users to adopt healthy habits, according to the report. The products track activity and sleep, and also offer awards and competitions to encourage users to stay active.
Finally, third-party developers can track health and fitness using iPhone and Apple Watch sensors. These developers include exercise apps like MyFitnessPal, meditation apps like Calm, and nutrition apps like WeightWatchers.
For the medical profession
As with its consumer offerings, Apple also has four ways to collaborate with the medical community: Helping researchers with new scientific discoveries, Improving the doctor-patient relationship through data, Enabling healthcare organizations to promote healthy lifestyles, and Public health and government initiatives support.
With the iPhone and the Apple Watch, researchers can recruit participants for studies on a large scale and gain access to a wealth of data. The research app also allows consumers to see how the data is being used and easily toggle their participation on and off, the report says.
“With these contributions and the use of our sensor technology, researchers can study large and diverse groups, obtain frequent data, and ultimately analyze data from a broader representation of the population,” the report states.
Wearables like the Apple Watch also give patients better insight into their health and help them know when to discuss certain issues with their doctor. Additionally, by tracking data from Apple products, doctors have a better picture of what’s going on with their patients, according to the report.
“Looking at data from wearables like the Apple Watch and collaborating to understand the patient experience coupled with the information from sensor technology is an opportunity for us to develop the knowledge that will enable us to better care for patients. This is the future,” said Heather Ross, chief of the department of cardiology at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, in the report.
Additionally, healthcare organizations and insurance companies are working with Apple to include the Apple Watch in their wellness programs. These include Paceline, which uses AI and wearables to track fitness goals and offers a credit card that rewards consumers for being active.
Finally, Apple stated in the report that it supports public health organizations through its technology. Features for exposure notifications, virtual vaccination cards and more have been provided for Covid-19.
Jeff Williams, Apple’s COO, 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 develop science-based technology that empowers people with even more information and acts as an intelligent guardian of their health, so that they are no longer passengers on their own health journey,” said Williams. “Instead, we want people with meaningful, actionable insights to be firmly in the driver’s seat.”