Apple wants to promote health apps that work

"They’d like the most effectives ones to be the ones that are used."

Apple, iOS, iPhone, Apple Watch, digital health, health, apps

Apple’s plans for digital health are profound. As it pursues them, it is making huge investments in original research, data analysis, patient records, and sensor development. It works with others, including IBM, to develop health care solutions for the elderly and many other health care verticals. And it wants to promote apps that work.

That’s a problem

Every single digital health solution is only as good as the software that drives it. That’s not just about Apple’s devices, but third party solutions such as Qardio's QardioArm (which Apple retail added to its shelves this week), and thousands of third-party health-related apps.

The trouble is that when we decide which apps to use we have no good way to make sure those we choose work effectively.

When you search for them you can end up being told about apps that don’t work as well as others, and that’s a problem for Google, too.

NHS England is looking deeply at this. To help fix the knowledge gap, it will open its own health app store in a few weeks, where it intends offering approved apps developed by third parties, and it seeks partnerships to enable this. One partner it speaks to is Apple.

Apple knows this problem exists. It wants to resolve it.

Talking to Apple

“We’re talking very closely to Apple about how we ensure that when you search for health apps, you get trusted ones. That’s a challenge for Apple as well. They’d like the most effectives ones to be the ones that are used and that’s not always the case; likewise there are NHS-branded ones out there that aren’t always that much to do with the NHS,”Juliet Bauer, Director of Digital Experience, NHS England, told Diginomica.

HealthTap has an idea that may help inform this problem.

This 2015 list shows how peer review of health software by qualified medical practitioners may help you make better decisions when it comes to choosing health apps.

Growing complexity          

Just like connected vehicles, digital health is something that sounds simple but ends up being incredibly complicated.

How can we tell good solutions from bad?

Apple’s biggest attempts to promote effective research, CareKit and ResearchKit solutions have enabled a multitude of important research projects that should expose what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to digital health.

These solutions have driven development of powerful new apps, including the free One Drop diabetes management app. Apps for epilepsy, post-surgical care and management of chronic conditions are also being developed.

“The resources will all be technically safe, they will have gone through a host of questions to make sure the data is safe. Some of them will have an additional element, some kind of NHS-approved branding, if there’s enough evidence out there to prove they work and are effective,” said Bauer.


A growing elderly population combined with a shortage of qualified staff to look after them is a ticking time bomb for future global health provision.

It has to be hoped that development of mobile apps may help cut the cost of care for patients, and the evolution of A.I.-based diagnostic solutions seems inevitable, enabling human doctors to focus on critical cases while enabling every human to get the help they need.

Babylon Health is building an AI system that provides first line medical care to patients, and Apple already has at least one telemedicine-related patent that relates to remote patient diagnosis.

IBM and Apple are already working together to weave Watson into healthcare.

“Through our partnership with Apple, we have an entire suite of apps for nurses and doctors to streamline workflow… Watson technologies, which are delivered on mobile devices via the cloud, are helping clinicians sift through structured and unstructured information from clinical data, genomics, and medical literature to help deliver evidence-based, personalized cancer care,” Terrel Marks, Global Apple Partnership Lead, Healthcare & Life Sciences, IBM, told me last year.


"More and more care will be delivered outside hospitals and clinics,"  Ovum's then lead Healthcare & Life Sciences analyst, Charlotte Davies told me in 2015.

Apple recruited St. Michael’s Dr. Mike Evans, a trailblazer in remote patient care, to its teams last year.

“In the future, Dr. Evans said, he might prescribe an app that would monitor the patient’s blood pressure remotely with a watch or some other wearable. If the blood pressure improved over time, an alert might go the clinic’s pharmacist who could reduce the patient’s medication. People could compare how they are doing with other people anonymously, or even compare themselves with people they know,” St. Michael’s said.

Wearable technology will become an essential ingredient in future care.A Stanford University study found that the data gathered by wearable technologies can not only tell when you are ill, but can also tell you when you are going to become sick.

However, while all these ambitions sound wonderful, it's also going to be incredibly important to make sure the apps we then turn to that advise us are based on good science. Your life may well depend on it.

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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