Apple's Entry Into Healthcare - what does it mean?

17 October 2014

The iPhone continues to be highly popular in Australia, and the devices continually become more highly integrated into our lives. They manage our calendar, our communications, our map directions, our entertainment, our TV, our credit cards, and now our Health as well.

It was the next logical step. Think about it for a minute – where is all your Health information and data? Is it scattered among different doctors and specialist practices? Do you have some x-rays and reports yourself? But who has a complete picture of your medical history? And how can this be accessed when it's needed (e.g. Emergency room)?

While not so dramatic at first – it will provide a way for other fitness, nutrition and medical apps to display their information on a centralised screen. Up until now Apple has not entered the healthcare sector, instead leaving it to other individual companies to develop their own apps. This Health app will provide a dashboard to access the data contained within these other apps.

Initially with the help of US's Mayo Clinic, physician and clinical information such as pathology results, medications, nutrition and other information may be recorded by the app.

Then, should you be in an emergency your medical information can be accessed on your phone from the lock screen (so emergency personnel can access it) to find out what medications an individual is on, and their past medical history.

Data from fitness accessories such as wristbands and other fitness tools will combine with health information (from physicians) to build a more powerful and health picture.

'Health' will launch in iOS8 this year, in line with the new iPhone (just recently released).

For us in Australia - other than fitness gurus who have invested in fitness accessories like Nike shoes and wristbands. The app will only contain information you have entered yourself and information collected via its motion sensors (e.g. your amount of movement).

However it's not a too distant a future where data is seamlessly shared between your doctor's office and your smartphone. There are just a few technical and privacy hoops to jump through first. The Mayo Clinic in the US is proving this is possible. Whether for us this means sharing it first with the government's eHealth record or whether it takes individual practice software vendors to provide integration in the form on mobile device apps – it will be a case of wait and see.

A future where health information is transparently available from a variety of sources is almost here.

'iPhone' and 'Apple' are trademarks of Apple Inc.

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