Apple aims to turn HealthKit into diagnostic tool: report

According to people familiar with the matter, Apple's medical technology team aims to turn HealthKit, which has mostly collected fitness data from the company's devices, into a tool that improves diagnoses, Bloomberg reported Monday. The sources suggested that experts hired by Apple in recent years are creating improved electronic health record software that can better analyse and understand the implications of patient data.

In the future, Apple plans that the HealthKit software will interpret the health data, turning it into advice for users, doctors and others. According to Bloomberg, the system could allow data to be transferred from hospital to hospital across different databases and make it quick and easy for physicians to gain significant information from large amounts of data.

The people further noted that Apple is also working on new apps for the Apple Watch, with one that helps users track sleep patterns, while another app gauges fitness levels by measuring the time taken for the heart rate to fall from its peak to resting level. One of the sources said that incorporating an accelerometer into the Apple Watch would generate most of the useful data needed to monitor a person's well-being, but a glucometer or blood-pressure sensor would only help a small percentage of users.

Yuri Teshler, a healthcare consultant at Moor Insights & Strategy, remarked that if Apple is "going to an FDA device, it would need to have enough battery life to last a day, and something where it independently functions from your phone." He added that Apple can't really do anything more with health-related sensors until the watch has a wireless LTE chip and an independent cellular connection.

Last month, Apple disclosed that it acquired personal health data startup Gliimpse, bolstering its efforts in digital health. Gliimpse has developed a secure, personal health data platform that allows users to collect, personalise and share their own medical records and information.

Scott Jenkins, CEO of health data management company Certainty Health, said "Apple is working hard with many…large institutions to generate tools that are medically correct, to take data from sensors," adding that "they want to be the repository, the open collection space." In July, GlaxoSmithKline launched a rheumatoid arthritis study, dubbed PARADE, and an iPhone app using Apple's ResearchKit, representing the first time a drugmaker has used the open source software framework to conduct clinical research.

For further information on wearable technology in healthcare, see The Outlook for Wearable Health Tech in Managing Chronic Disease.

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