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Health apps ready to collect your vital signs, wellness data

J. D. Sartain | July 16, 2014
Shifting healthcare policies, new treatment options, aging demographics and soaring inflation all drive an innovation in healthcare that's focused on improving consumers' health and lowering the cost to manage chronic conditions, says Julie Ask, Forrester vice president and principal analyst.

Apple Health displays personal biometric data heart rate, calories consumed and burned, blood sugar and cholesterol from the fitness apps that actually collect the data and from devices such as JawBone and the iBGStar Blood Glucose Meter. The purpose is to provide a single app that collates all the data in an easy-to-read dashboard. These devices and apps have connected to the iPhone for quite some time, but Apple Health compiles it in one convenient source.

In addition, the HealthKit SDK lets independent programmers develop additional apps that will integrate with Apple Health. Users can share information with doctors and other healthcare professionals (per person or establishment) or turn off sharing completely.

Most recently, Google announced the Google Fit platform at the Google I/O conference. This open platform for the Web, smartphones and Android Wear, due for release this fall, provides developers a single set of APIs to access and store fitness data from apps and sensors. For users, Google Fit eliminates the complexity of accessing multiple sources of information, providing a unified view of fitness activity and overall health. Google's partners include Nike, Adidas, Basis, Polar, Withings, Intel, LG and HTC.

Google's health apps edge is twofold. First, the Android smartphone platform market share is 52 percent, according to comScore, compared to 42 percent for Apple. Second, Google says it plans to add many more devices to its existing line of Android Wear smartwatches.

Too Much Health Data a Prescription for Trouble?

Gartner Research Director Anurag Gupta says the interface with the mobile device represents a critical component of fitness and patient monitoring that is, how medical devices and wearables send and receive data or instructions from multiple sources and then, to maintain data quality, provide some uniformity to that data.

In addition, as companies collect vast amounts of user-generated data, there will be multiple opportunities to monetize that data by, say, targeting shoe advertisements for a fanatic runner or backpacks for a devoted hiker. Payers and pharmaceutical firms will be keenly interested in this data, too.

Feeding data from wearable data into electronic health record (EHR) systems in order to create a complete, holistic patient profile above and beyond existing hospital or ambulatory patient records will be a mammoth task, Gupta says. The regulatory framework connected to the patient data presents another major challenge, he adds. There are strict rules associated with the use of health data, which regulations classify as protected health information.

What's more, what an application does, and how its data is used and interpreted, further affects its classification. Apps used by physicians to diagnose or treat a disease, for example, are subject to more regulatory scrutiny than those used by patients to manage that disease, Gupta says.


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