Apple Touts Health Initiatives in Newly Unveiled Apple Watch, iPhone


Apple announced the release of its new iPhone and its Apple Watch, which CEO Tim Cook called a comprehensive fitness and health device, Healthcare IT News reports (Monegain, Healthcare IT News, 9/9).

Apple Watch Details

The Apple Watch is expected to launch in early 2015 at a starting price of $349 (Comstock, MobiHealthNews, 9/9). It will require users to use iPhone as its wireless foundation (Brino, Government Health IT, 9/9).

At its launch, the device will use a built-in application suite consisting of two apps:

  • An Activity app that tracks day-to-day exercise activity, movement and minutes standing per day; and
  • A Workout app that allows users to set a goal based on calories, distance, heart rate or time.

In addition, a companion Fitness app on users' iPhones will aggregate data from both the Activity and Workout apps and share that data with Apple's cloud-based health information platform HealthKit, which was announced earlier this year.

In addition, the Apple Watch will have the ability to:

  • Use a built-in accelerometer to track people's movements;
  • Monitor heart rates through optical sensors located in the back of the watch; and
  • Use data from GPS and WiFi on users' iPhones to collect additional information.

Jay Blahnik, Apple's director of Health, Fitness Technologies, said, "Over time, Apple Watch actually gets to know you the way a good personal trainer would. It is designed to deliver intelligent reminders to keep you motivated and on track. It can suggest goals that are personal, realistic and most important, achievable, which gives you a far better chance of succeeding" (MobiHealthNews, 9/9).

Meanwhile, Michael Mytych, a principal at Health Information Consulting, said the Apple Watch has the potential to significantly improve medication adherence by tracking when medications are supposed to be taken and sending reminders to users.

However, he raised concerns about the device's battery life being able to support health care tasks (Goedert, Health Data Management, 9/10).

iPhone 6's Health Features

Apple also announced some new health-related features that will be included with its iPhone 6.

Specifically, Apple said that the phone will come with an M8 chip that will use a built-in barometer to estimate altitude changes to deduce the number of steps a user climbs.

In addition, the phone could have some effects on telemedicine efforts, according to MobiHealthNews. For example, the new iPhone will have:

  • An updated camera that could make photographing wounds and blemishes easier; and
  • An updated FaceTime app that supports a front-facing HD camera, which could improve video visits with providers (MobiHealthNews, 9/9).

Possible Mayo Clinic Partnership

According to reports, the Mayo Clinic might endorse Apple Watch as a tool to help patients improve and maintain their health, Healthcare IT News reports.

Reports noted that Mayor Clinic representatives were scheduled to be present at the announcement, but they did not make an appearance during the meeting (Healthcare IT News, 9/9).

According to Modern Healthcare, the Mayo Clinic already has a patient app available through the iTunes app store.

John Wald, the clinic's medical director for public affairs, said, "We will see what the [Apple Watch] brings from the remote-monitoring perspective. I think the [Apple Watch] is one tool to begin to remotely monitor these patients" (Tahir, Modern Healthcare, 9/8).

Privacy Concerns

Meanwhile, some privacy experts have expressed concerns over how Apple will keep user data safe as it moves toward collected health data.

For example, experts have asked:

  • If users will be able to see how their data are being used;
  • Whether Apple with comply with HIPAA;
  • How Apple will handle and report data breaches; and
  • How Apple will address apps from developers that sell data to third parties.

While Apples has not specifically addressed privacy and security concerns, it has taken some steps to ensure users' privacy (Dwoskin/Beck, "Digits," Wall Street Journal, 9/9). For example, Apple has changed its iOS developer license agreement to prohibit developers from selling health information collected through HealthKit "to advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers." In addition, the agreement states that developers are not permitted to use the HealthKit app or data collected from it "for any purpose other than providing health and/or fitness services" (iHealthBeat, 9/3).

Source: iHealthBeat, Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Evolve Digital Labs report finds U.S. Hospitals Lack Patient-Centered Websites

Some of the nation's top hospitals struggle to create a strong online presence and offer patient-centered websites, according to a new report from Evolve Digital Labs, Becker's Hospital Review reports.

Report Details

For the report, titled "The Digital Health of Today's Best Hospitals," researchers between January 2013 and January 2014 analyzed the digital presence of 57 of the top hospitals in the U.S., as identified by U.S. News & World Report.

The researchers used various search analysis and social media tracking tools to determine the patient "reach" of each hospital's website through:

  • Domain and page authority;
  • Inbound links;
  • Linking domains; and
  • Traffic.

The study also examined various website functions, such as those that allow patients to:

  • Complete medical forms before appointments;
  • Make appointments;
  • Pay medical bills;
  • Request refills;
  • View discharge and rehabilitation information; and
  • View medical records and/or test results.

To determine the hospitals' rankings, the researchers' search terms included all of the 16 health specializations in which the top hospitals are ranked nationally.

Report Findings

Overall, the report found that:

  • 67% of the hospitals did not offer online rehabilitation and aftercare information;
  • Nearly 50% of hospitals did not support post-prescription refill requests;
  • 49% of hospitals did not have a mobile website;
  • 33% did not allow online bill pay;
  • 20% allowed patients to pre-register online; and
  • 18% had website errors that affected the patient experience.

According to the report, the top 10 patient-centric hospital websites belong to:

  • Mayo Clinic;
  • Cleveland Clinic;
  • University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center;
  • Massachusetts General Hospital;
  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center;
  • Duke Medicine;
  • Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia;
  • Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary;
  • Mount Sinai Medical Center; and
  • Florida Hospital.


Derek Mabie, president of Evolve, said the findings highlight the need for digital governance throughout hospitals and health care systems to reduce the communication gap between health care professionals and patients.

He said, "If there were digital governance, these top hospitals would all have mobile-friendly sites" (Gamble, Becker's Hospital Review, 4/17).

Source: iHealthBeat, Tuesday, April 22, 2014

5 Reasons We Love Usability Testing - by Justin Williams

User Experience and Usability Testing have become fashionable lingo in the health IT world, yet EHR software is rife with usability issues; convoluted workflows, poor content, and poor interaction design are common frustrations that plague providers daily. Changing healthcare reimbursement models, Meaningful Use, PQRS, ICD-10... don’t providers have enough concerns without having to worry about their EHR?