- On Tuesday, Apple released its newest, much-awaited device, the Apple Watch. The watch will be able to cull health information and provide it to employers, health providers and insurers through Apple's HealthKit app.
- The Apple Watch will be able to read information like pulse rate, time of exercise and distance traversed and send it to whomever the user wants through HealthKit, debuting with Apple's new iOS operating system. Experts had predicted in advance that the watch would be able to track more data, including blood pressure, temperature and hydration levels.
- Providers estimate that wearable health devices and connected apps will allow doctors to track a person's overall wellness instead of only acute conditions treated by physicians. People who have chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis or diabetes will have their daily information on hand and accessible to providers.
Some industry participants were disappointed by Apple Watch's healthcare functions. Noted Modern Healthcare's Darius Tahir, "Reports in advance of the [Watch] unveiling predicted greater ambitions for the variety of health metrics the device would be able to track."
And at the launch itself, despite a series of leaks leading up to the event that suggested Apple was partnering with some pretty major providers and payers, there was surprisingly little mention of its long-term plans in healthcare. The company's partnership with the Mayo Clinic wasn't even mentioned. As Dan Diamond observed in Forbes: "Given that Apple told top FDA officials last year that the company has a 'moral obligation' to move into healthcare; that it's hired a plethora of medical-device engineers; that it's struck or pursued deals with Mayo Clinic, Epic Software, and other prominent health care organizations … well, it was an odd health care no-show."
Still, that doesn't necessarily mean Apple botched the roll-out. Although the scope of the functions of the Apple Watch wasn't as fancy as predicted, remember: This is still early days for Apple in healthcare. They did invite several healthcare big-shots to the event, according to the Advisory Board's Jim Adams, suggesting that they are still planning on being a major player. Perhaps they didn't want to distract from the new iPhone 6, unveiled at the same event. Or, quite possibly, they're keeping a low-profile in the wake of the recent system hack that exposed a few private photos of Jennifer Lawrence recently. The hack cast some doubts on Apple's ability to safeguard HIPAA-protected information. Perhaps they are still ironing out some kinks.
Still, there is enthusiasm about the Apple Watch's potential to improve care. John Halamka, the CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said the device will be an important tool to help providers as reimbursement moves toward managing population health. Halamka said that the product could "radically change our ability to coordinate care."
And according to Modern Healthcare, a report from Pew Research in January 2013 found that 69% of Americans already track at least one health condition; almost half keep track of it "in their heads." The trick to the success of these devices will be the ability to get patients in the middle of the health spectrum to use it (as opposed to people with chronic illnesses or health enthusiasts). But if any company can take a product and make it part of the mainstream, it is likely Apple.