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My month as a HealthKit patient

Marco Tabini | Feb. 13, 2015
I'm a sucker for data. At my day job, I get to help businesses collect and analyze all kinds of information--a process that often leads to transformative change on the way our clients operate.

To be blunt, I find this approach pretty invasive. I was hoping that Apple would have put its corporate foot down over these shenanigans, at least when it comes to health data, and prevented vendors who wanted to get on the HealthKit train from attempting to make such brazen grabs for information that is pretty personal in nature.

This seems particularly important when you consider that neither app adds much value to the data that their devices collect. BP7's app simply keeps a running spreadsheet of my blood pressure, and Body Analyzer's makes a feeble attempt at gamifying everything from weight loss to the number of steps you take in a day — which is off-putting to the extreme.

Worst of all is Apple's own Health App, which takes a complex job — storing and visualizing all kinds of data about your health — and makes a pretty substandard job of it. For one thing, the charts it produces are hard to interpret, because it's impossible to tell exactly what value is associated with each data point. Thus, you can more or less "guess" how your weight has changed over time, but the only way to tell exactly how much you weigh is to go look at the individual measurements, which are shown as a table in a different screen.

Unfortunately, this detailed view suffers from a fatal defect of its own: It takes longer and longer to load as you accumulate more data. To give you an example, my Steps screen, which contains information collected from the iPhone's built-in pedometer, takes several minutes to open up.

A mixed bag

Despite these hiccups, my experience with this "connected" way of managing my health has been very positive. During my most recent visit, I was able to show the doctor that my previous high blood pressure measurement really was a fluke, and the data from the Body Analyzer and pedometer helped us work on better ways to manage my weight and exercise regimen.

The only real disappointment in my little experiment was that, while the hardware performed really quite well, the software side of things seems to be limited to collecting the data and making a half-hearted attempt at visualizing it for you.

Call me cynical, but I don't really know what to make of an app that cheers me on while I drudge through an attempt at changing my eating habits. However, features like the ability to spot unusual (and potentially worrisome) trends, or even just reminding me that I forgot to take my blood pressure on a given day, would be immensely valuable — and also happen to be things that software can do really well.


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