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Apple Expands Health Data, Trends, Sharing

Apple iPhone screen shots

Screen shots, L-R, of iPhone sharing, walking steadiness, and trends health app features. Click on image for full-size view (Apple Inc.)

8 June 2021. Apple Inc. is adding new data collection, reporting, and sharing features to its iPhone and watch health apps supported by its latest operating system upgrades. The company announced the health app features running on the iOS15 and watchOS8 operating systems yesterday at its annual worldwide developers conference.

Apple offers its Health App that measures a number of health indicators with its mobile devices, such as physical movements and activity in the iPhone and heart rate in the Apple watch. In addition, a related health Research App enables wearers to take part in research studies using the devices for data collection and uploading to the cloud for analysis. As reported in Science & Enterprise, Apple devices are used in research to collect data on Parkinson’s disease symptoms and to detect depression. The company earlier sponsored studies on women’s health, heart health and movements, and hearing loss using the Research App.

Apple’s iPhone health app is adding a new feature to track the steadiness of a person’s walking. This feature uses motion sensors in the iPhone and built-in algorithms to monitor walking behavior and surfaces for signs of instability indicating a better chance of falling. The company cites World Health Organization data showing more than 37 million people a year require medical attention from falls. Apple also says this feature is result of real-world data from more than 100,000 participants in the company’s heart and movement study.

In addition, the iPhone health app now calculates trends for 20 data indicators such as heart rate and amount of sleep over time. And the health app can also track data over time from third-party devices like blood glucose monitors. The iPhone app also allows for routinely sharing health indicators, including trends data, with designated family members or clinicians. And health app users will have the option for storing verifiable immunization records and lab test results, including Covid-19 vaccines and tests, in the app.

Track personal health and family members

The Apple watch is adding more health-related features as well. The watch is adding a mindfulness app for users to engage in deep breathing and focusing exercises. And the watch will capture respiratory rate, measured as breaths per minute, during sleep, for the health app with data trends tracked over time.

Apple believes the new health features will help users better care for their own health and family members, particularly older adults. “We’ve added powerful features that give users the most comprehensive set of insights to better understand their health trends over time,” says Apple’s chief operating officer Jeff Williams in a company statement. “Many people around the world are caring for someone, and we want to provide a secure and private way for users to have a trusted partner on their health journey.”

The new health app features are now available for developers, and will be introduced to users next month in “beta” or early-access form. Apple plans to make most features available to iPhone and watch users in the fall as iOS15 software updates, although some features may need more recent hardware versions to run.

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