Personal wellness technologies are increasing the frequency and ease at which individuals and their health care providers can monitor changes in their health and well-being across various domains, paving the way for more effective preventive and curative healthcare. Apple’s Health app provides a case in point and paints an exciting picture of the future of personal wellness technologies.

 

The Evolution of Apple Health 

 

A Storage Base For Raw Biometric Data

In 2014, Apple released the Apple Watch, which included, among other things, a heart rate tracker. To provide users with the ability to access past heart rate measures, Apple Health was created as a way to store and retrieve unanalyzed heart rate data.

 

Data Analysis And Alerts

Over time, Apple Health users started using information about their heart rates from the app in unintended ways. For instance, they began looking at their heart rates while resting as opposed to after a run. Upon noticing irregularities, some of these individuals went to their doctors and discovered that they had heart issues. They were then able to treat their conditions earlier and more effectively as a result.

After learning about the novel ways in which Apple Health users were engaging in rogue biometric data analysis, Apple decided to incorporate data analysis and alerts into the Apple Health app. First, they developed alerts for short-term changes in heart rates.

 

 Apple Watch introduced high heart rate notifications in 2017. Image: Apple

Later, they created Apple Health Trends, which allows individuals who have been using Apple Health for significant periods of time to learn about clinically significant long-term changes (e.g., whether their resting heart rate is higher now than it was a year ago).

 

Information Sharing

An app that will alert you to clinically relevant information about your health that you would not otherwise have been aware of is valuable on its own. Ultimately though, this information needs to get into the hands of the right people if effective measures are to be taken. As Vice President of Apple Technology, David Lynch, notes “when you’re interacting with a doctor, they may not have a great view of your daily health. They have these little silo views of blood pressure at the time and stuff like that.” With the release of iOS 15, Apple Health will allow users to share their personal health data with doctors (and loved ones), thereby supplying health care providers with more complete pictures of the health of patients and aiding in the process of diagnosis, prevention, and treatment.

 

The Future Of Personal Wellness Technologies

While these developments are significant, they mark what is likely only the beginning in a long and exciting series of advancements in personal wellness technologies. These devices are likely to improve when it comes to the inferences that are made on the basis of data that is already being evaluated for other purposes and in terms of the kinds of biometric data used to extract clinically significant information.

With regards to the data that is already used (e.g., heart rate), companies are hoping to soon be able to infer the degree of stress that the user experiences. As Wellable noted in an earlier post, Microsoft has been working on developing a stress tracking and management technology that will work by combing biometric data (e.g., heart rate and blood pressure) with productivity analytics (e.g., how much time is being spent on emails) to provide users with real-time information on their stress levels and encourage them to engage in personalized stress reducing behavior.

 

Microsoft patent Image taken from Microsoft’s patent

 

Apple has been thinking critically about the other kinds of data that might be clinically useful. David Lynch states:

Now, there’s a lot of thought that we put into ‘What are the other things that we could maybe sense about someone and let them know about?’ […] Are their new sensors that we might be able to build to get some data that could answer the questions that, clinically, we think would be really valid?

 

Some of these additional sensors have already be utilized. Apple has used motion-sensing data passively gathered through Apple’s iPhone sensors to provide users with a measure of how stable their gait is, which can be used to prevent falls. They are also beginning to use respiration rate measurements during sleep, which might alert users to early signs of sleep apnea. Additionally, though Apple has not voiced an explicit intent to make use of their facial recognition technology for clinical purposes, researchers claim that it could be used to detect driver fatigue and prevent car accidents, and even to detect early signs of a stroke.

How far these innovations will go and how quickly they will come is difficult to predict. However, it is clear that personal devices will play an ever-increasing role in the detection and management of our health and well-being.

Get our stories delivered From us to your inbox weekly.

Wellness In Your Pocket

How many times did you check your smartphone today?

Apple’s Big Wellness Announcement

On Tuesday September 10th, Apple made its most significant health and wellness announcement to...

Clinton Health Matters Initiative And Wellable Join To Promote Wellness

Earlier this year we shared our vision for using mobile health and wellness technology to make...

Putting The Person At The Center Of Wellness

In a recent article that appeared in The Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health titled, “Incentives...

Mobile Apps, Not Wearables, Will Drive Wellness Technology In The Workplace

There has been a lot of talk about wellness technology and how it can help promote, encourage,...

The “Other Things” Employers Should Do To Foster A Culture Of Health And Wellness

Finding the right wellness vendor is crucial to implementing a successful wellness program, but a...

Survey: Tech Support & Trust Boost Wellness Program Participation

A 22-page report, “Measuring Wellness, From Data to Insights,” by the The Economist Intelligence...

Proprietary Wellness Technologies For Employers Don't Work

Many wellness companies push proprietary apps and devices (yes, some wellness companies have seen...

Connecting The Dots Between Wellness and Mental Health

Organizations continue to prioritize the mental health of their employees. During several recent...

Study Validates Efficacy Of Health And Wellness Text Messaging Programs

A joint study between the University of Kansas School of Medicine and the U.S. Centers for Disease...

Congress To Provide Clarity On Employee Wellness Programs

After the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed lawsuits on numerous employers, such...

Apple Health And Corporate Wellness

Two of the most common questions we are asked at Wellable are whether or not Apple Health is a game...

7 Keys To A Great Team Wellness Challenge

Team wellness challenges are great ways to engage and motivate employees to increase their physical...

Updated Apple Health App Plays Nice With 3rd Party Health, Wellness Apps

Apple has released a preview for the new version of iOS, which will feature updates across a number...

2/3 Of Employees Rank Health And Wellness Perks Number One

A recent survey by One Medical Group found that two out of three full-time professionals prefer...

4 Wellness Rewards To Reinvest In Employee Health

Rewarding participation is an excellent way to encourage wellness program engagement.  However,...

Survey: Health App, Wearable Device Adoption Tripled Since 2014

According to the Accenture 2018 Consumer Survey On Digital Health, “healthcare consumers continue...

Wellness Resolutions? There’s An App For That—But It Might Not Help

The public’s interest in physical fitness, self-care, and personal well-being continues to boom,...

Virtual Fitness Thrives During Pandemic, Leaving On-Site Facilities Empty

In the past several months, employers have been grappling with how to adapt business operations to...

Studies: Fitbit Use Associated With Physical Activity Improvements

Wearable devices, like the Fitbit and Apple Watch, continue to rise in popularity. However, at the...