Apple advances in Healthcare support: What you need to know

Apple seems pretty focused on tapping into the immense need of the industry on supporting mobile healthcare. As an application developer or provider, there has never been a better time to dive into mobile healthcare and trust us, we have been in this game for quite a while now.

Before Apple jumped in, there have been tons of fitness apps, health monitoring apps and wearables that tracked different health data points on their own. The digital healthcare market was booming but desperately needed a standardised way of storing and sharing data with other mobile apps and wearables. In came Apple.

In 2014, Apple:

  • introduced HealthKit – a way for apps to access and store sensitive health data points in a secure framework
  • introduced Apple Watch, which is mainly a health and fitness device, that connected to HealthKit
  • developed an in-house app called Health which gathered and presented all health-related info that different custom apps collected

In 2015, Apple:

  • added even more health data point markers to HealthKit
  • introduced ResearchKit – a framework for apps that let medical researchers collect meaningful research data

In 2016, Apple

We have detailed info on each of these later in this article, but here is a taste of what an app provider, like Ideas2IT, can potentially do with these from Apple.

  1. Launch an app app_Research that uses ResearchKit to gather valuable data from, say people with diabetes, for its healthcare service provider client healthprovider_XYZ
  2. Analyse the data points from app_Research and then propose new monitoring metrics or care metrics to healthprovider_XYZ.
  3. healthprovider_XYZ can now have Ideas2IT create an app app_Care for its patients that connects to their EHR system in the backend and uses CareKit in iOS to help users monitor and record these new metrics daily.
  4. app_Care can also have an iWatch integration that puts data to HealthKit.
  5. app_Care can show a detailed trend to patients and health providers, thereby helping with adjusting further care.
  6. Detailed care documents from healthprovider_XYZ can be mailed to the patient. The patient can then download these documents to HealthKit for future tracking and validations.

Now that we have given you a taste of it, let us dive into all that an app developer can do with these frameworks.

HealthKit:

HealthKit is designed to manage data from a wide range of sources (like different health & fitness apps for iPhones, iPads , iWatch) automatically merging the data from these different sources based on user’s preferences.

  • Apps can also access the raw data for each source, merging the data themselves.
  • HealthKit saves data in an encrypted database.
  • HealthKit is the underlying storage framework that supports CareKit, ResearchKit, Health app and other custom apps.

HealthKit can help apps track – Active Calories, Biotin, Blood Alcohol Content, Blood Glucose, Blood Pressure Diastolic, Blood Pressure Systolic, Body Fat Percent, Body Mass Index, Body Temperature, Caffeine, Calcium, Carbohydrates, Chloride, Chromium, Copper, Cycling Distance, Dietary Calories, Dietary Cholesterol, Electrodermal Activity, Fiber, Flights Climbed, Folate, Forced Expiratory Volume, Forced Vital Capacity, Heart Rate, Height, Inhaler Usage, Iodine, Iron, Lean Body Mass, Magnesium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Monounsaturated Fat, Niacin, NikeFuel, Number of Times Fallen, Oxygen Saturation, Pantothenic Acid, Peak Expiratory Flow Rate, Peripheral Perfusion Index, Phosphorus, Polyunsaturated Fat, Potassium, Protein, Respiratory Rate, Resting Calories, Riboflavin, Saturated Fat, Selenium, Sleep Analysis Asleep, Sleep Analysis In Bed, Sodium, Steps, Sugar, Thiamin, Total Fat, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Menstrual cycles, Basal body temperature, Cervical Mucus Quality ,Walking + Running Distance, Weight, Workouts, Zinc

CareKit:

CareKit is a development framework that has utilities to store and visually show & let users regularly track care plans, monitor their progress, and share their insights with care teams.

The selling point is that it gives us standard UI templates as well as the underlying architecture across four modules that are customizable

  1. Care Card that lets users capture regular activities assigned to them like medication, exercise etc.
  2. Symptom Tracker that lets users track their symptoms like pain, glucose level etc.
  3. Insights module that shows different charts based on the info given.
  4. Connect module that lets users add their doctor, emergency contact info and through which the user can share reports of his progress.

ResearchKit:

ResearchKit is a development framework that helps with medical research. It enables visual consent flows, real-time dynamic active tasks, and surveys using a variety of customizable modules that we can build upon and share with the community. It is mainly targeted at researchers looking for data for their studies.

It enables a developer to,

  • Build surveys for modal presentation on an iOS device.
  • Use customizable visual consent templates to explain the details of your study and obtain a signature from the participant.
  • Use active tasks to invite users to perform activities under semi-controlled conditions, using iPhone sensors to collect data.

Some general notes for any HealthKit app:

Apple says that

  1. Because health data can be sensitive, HealthKit grants users control over their data by providing fine-grained control over the information that apps can share. The user must explicitly grant each app permission to read and write data to the HealthKit store. Users can grant or deny permission separately for each type of data.
  2. Your app must not access the HealthKit APIs unless the app is primarily designed to provide health or fitness services. Your app’s role as a health and fitness service must be clear in both your marketing text and your user interface.
  3. HealthKit is not available in iPad.

The following guidelines apply to all HealthKit apps:

Apple says that

  • Your app may not use information gained through the use of the HealthKit framework for advertising or similar services. Note that you may still serve ads in an app that uses the HealthKit framework, but you cannot use data from the HealthKit store to serve ads.
  • You must not disclose any information gained through HealthKit to a third party without express permission from the user. Even with permission, you can only share information to a third party if they are also providing a health or fitness service to the user.
  • You cannot sell information gained through HealthKit to advertising platforms, data brokers, or information resellers.
  • If the user consents, you may share his or her HealthKit data with a third party for medical research.
  • You must clearly disclose to the user how you and your app will use their HealthKit data.

Ready to tap into the potential of Apple’s Health Care initiatives? Talk to us.

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