Apple’s Healthbook could overhaul doctor-patient relationship
By Chantal Tode
March 19, 2014
Apple's Healthbook might be based on Passbook
Apple appears to have set its sights on overhauling how consumers not only monitor their own health and fitness, but also how they communicate such information to healthcare professionals.
The company is reportedly developing a mobile application called Healthbook that would take a broader approach to health beyond simply fitness tracking and integrate either with an Apple wearable device or with third-party devices. With this strategy, Apple may be trying to lay the groundwork for leveraging wearables and mobile phones to communicate relevant health data directly to healthcare professionals.
“Putting together a Healthbook in the palm of someone’s hand is a major step towards the open data and awareness health initiatives at the Federal level,” said David Turner, CEO of Parallel 6, San Diego. “It is a significant step for Apple in that individuals would be able to accurately track and capture important health information for not only reference but in the future, possible secure transfer to approved and HIPAA compliant systems.
“Existing health and fitness apps tend to have a closed system between the app and the device,” he said. “The potential impact to these apps would be a possible innovative and secured conduit to pass data frames to health record systems and other critical care systems in a secured HIPAA certified environment.
“Imagine a patient seamlessly capturing heart rate data from a device, passing that data to an iPhone, and having the iPhone automatically uploading those data frames to a Health Record database from anywhere in the world.”
New healthcare opportunities
The health app is likely to be based on Apple's existing Passbook app, which acts as a centralized digital wallet for a user's loyalty cards, tickets, offers and boarding passes.
The news suggests Apple has recognized the significant potential in mobile to unlock new healthcare-related opportunities.
Mobile could have a bigger impact on healthcare and wellness than any other industry, according to a recent report from Forrester Research. Not only can mobile help healthcare professionals drive efficiency by easily accessing real-time data, it can also help consumers manage their health by tracking vital health information, reminding them when to take their medications and engaging with health professionals (see story).
“Apple is clearly seeing demand there and the impetus to be there in the past,” said Jonathan Collins, principal analyst at ABI Research, New York. “It certainly wouldn’t be surprising if they wanted to do something with their own brands in the market.
“If it goes the route of something quite proprietary and closed, it could take away sales from additional devices,” he said. “Overall, I think it will likely not be too closed, drive overall awareness and drive extra validity.
“Apple has the potential and the heft to bring awareness and more trusted value in corporate wellness systems.”
Apple has experience in fitness tracking already, via sales of third-party health and fitness tracking devices in its own stores and the integration of these devices with iOS. Apple was also among the first to enable Bluetooth connections for communications between fitness trackers and Apple’s own devices.
Additionally, Apple has had a long-standing relationship with Nike related to the sports brands’ fitness tracking devices.
There are already a number of apps available that focus on different, specific areas of health management, such as fitness tracking, nutrition, blood sugar monitoring and heart rate.
However, Healthbook would reportedly be arranged similarly to Passbook, with different tabs for different health-related information, such as blood work, heart rate, hydration, blood pressure, physical activity, nutrition, sleep and weight.
Healthbook could store data from all of a user's third-party health accessories that are compatible with the iPhone, such as wireless pulse and oxygen trackers, heart rate straps and body analyzers.
It is also possible that Healthbook could work with a wearable device offered directly by Apple, something the technology company is supposedly working on. Apple is thought to be readying a smart watch, possibly for some time this year.
By combining fitness activity, weight tracking, diet management and health into one app could be a significant way for Healthbook to stand out.
The app will also reportedly include sleep tracking and a centrally located emergency card containing a user's pertinent health information.
There could also be potential for marketers in Healthbook, as this could open up access to important user data.
“Activity trackers have the potential, especially if you connect them with a cell phone, to have a great deal of access to data that provides a lot of information about an individual,” ABI Research’s Mr. Collins said. “What are their goals, are they trying to lose weight, getting ready for a sports event.
“As much as that material can be connected, there are a whole range of companies that would find it valuable,” he said.
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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