Providers work­ing with Ap­ple on smart­watch to con­nect with pa­tients

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By Dar­ius Tahir

Health­care providers in­clud­ing the Mayo Clinic are ex­press­ing in­ter­est in work­ing with Ap­ple on its new smart­watch and HealthKit soft­ware plat­form to en­able peo­ple to col­lect and share their health in­for­ma­tion. But skep­tics say most con­sumers have limited in­ter­est in us­ing wear­able de­vices to gather health in­for­ma­tion.

Last week, Ap­ple un­veiled its Ap­ple Watch, which CEO Tim Cook de­scribed as a com­pre­hen­sive health and fit­ness de­vice that can mo­ti­vate wear­ers to be health­ier. The de­vice, which will be avail­able in early 2015, will be able to track med­i­cal and fit­ness data such as pulse rate. It can pair that in­for­ma­tion with Ap­ple’s new HealthKit plat­form, which can ag­gre­gate health data from var­i­ous wear­able de­vices and send them to providers or other en­ti­ties. As pre­sented by Ap­ple, the new smart­watch does not track blood pres­sure, tem­per­a­ture, or glu­cose and hy­dra­tion lev­els, as some ob­servers had pre­dicted.

The Mayo Clinic has de­cided to be in­volved with Ap­ple be­cause it hopes re­mote mon­i­tor­ing tools such as the Ap­ple Watch, along with the HealthKit plat­form, will al­low it to bet­ter reach pa­tients re­motely.

By the end of Septem­ber, Mayo plans to broaden its pa­tient app avail­able on iTunes—which al­lows pa­tients to ac­cess their test re­sults and make ap­point­ments—into a con­sumer app, said Dr. John Wald, the clinic’s med­i­cal di­rec­tor for mar­ket­ing. By early next year, it also could al­low the clinic to in­ter­act with con­sumers for con­di­tions such as obe­sity, di­a­betes, car­diac dis­ease and asthma. For ex­am­ple, Wald said, they could help obese pa­tients with diet and ex­er­cise. Wald said no money is chang­ing hands un­der the part­ner­ship.

Dr. John Halamka, chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer of Beth Is­rael Dea­coness Med­i­cal Cen­ter, Bos­ton, said the com­bi­na­tion of HealthKit and wear­ables such as the Ap­ple Watch will al­low providers to fa­cil­i­tate well- ness, which is in­creas­ingly im­por­tant un­der pop­u­la­tion-health-man­age­ment mod­els. “I think it’s go­ing to rad­i­cally change our abil­ity to co­or­di­nate care,” he said, not­ing how a wear­able de­vice com­bined with a plat­form such as HealthKit could help peo­ple re­motely mon­i­tor the func­tional sta­tus of a fam­ily mem­ber with a con­di­tion such as mul­ti­ple sclero­sis.

Beth Is­rael Dea­coness plans to build its own app that takes ad­van­tage of HealthKit and re­mote mon­i­tor­ing tools like the Ap­ple Watch to tar­get read­mis­sions of pa­tients with con­ges­tive heart fail­ure. The app Halamka en­vi­sions will track pa­tient in­for­ma­tion such as daily weight, ac­tiv­ity lev­els and pulse, and no­tify care man­agers of any clin­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant vari­ance.

HealthKit also holds prom­ise as a new foun­da­tion for health app de­vel­op­ers. Be­cause the plat­form will ag­gre­gate data from var­i­ous wear­ables and ren­der it into a common for­mat, “de­vel­op­ers can fo­cus on cool func­tions for apps with­out hav­ing to worry about the in­ter­faces or even the no­tion of dif­fer­ent data stan­dards for deal­ing with th­ese” de­vices, Halamka said. As a re­sult, he said, sys­tems will be­come more ag­gres­sive in cre­at­ing their own apps.

But some ob­servers ques­tion whether the Ap­ple Watch can truly nudge con­sumers to­ward bet­ter health. For ex­am­ple, Cit­i­group found in a survey that health and fit­ness rank near the bot­tom of con­sumers’ rea­sons to pur­chase the Ap­ple Watch.

Dr. Joseph Kvedar, founder of the Cen­ter for Con­nected Health at Bos­ton-based Part­ners Health­Care, said wear­able de­vices have had limited ap­peal for peo­ple other than those who are sick and health/fit­ness en­thu­si­asts.

Dr. Aaron Car­roll, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of pe­di­atrics at In­di­ana Univer­sity School of Medicine, said, “I’m skep­ti­cal that col­lect­ing tons and tons of data and putting it in front of physi­cians is mag­i­cally go­ing to change the qual­ity of the U.S. health­care sys­tem.”

But Wald said Ap­ple’s HealthKit plat­form will al­low con­sumers to de­fine what’s rel­e­vant to them. “I per­son­ally be­lieve it will be up to providers and users to find what fits best,” he said.

To pro­tect pa­tient pri­vacy, Wald said, Mayo will walk pa­tients through a brief ed­u­ca­tion process prior to link­ing the Mayo Clinic app with Ap­ple’s HealthKit plat­form, in­clud­ing med­i­cal pri­vacy con­sent and a re­minder that once the in­for­ma­tion passes into HealthKit, the pa­tient and not Mayo is re­spon­si­ble for the health data.

Ap­ple CEO Tim Cook in­tro­duces the Ap­ple Watch on Sept. 9 dur­ing an event in Cal­i­for­nia.

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