An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: Introducing Health and HealthKit

By Gillian Christie

Recent months have sent whispers through wires that technology-giant Apple would enter the health domain. On Monday, June 2, 2014, it happened. At the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Apple unveiled “HealthKit”, a data aggregation system that integrates health information from mobile applications on iPhones or iPads. Apple also launched “Health”, a user-facing mobile application that enables users to track desired health metrics. Taken together, users will be able to receive a 360 degree view of their health status.

Apple’s broadcast follows Samsung’s May 28 announcement of the Simband, a hardware device that tracks human metrics connected to a data platform, and SAMI (Samsung Multimodal Architecture Interaction), a cloud-based service for data storage. It also followed Microsoft’s presentation on May 29 that outlined plans to jump into the wearable device market by developing a smartwatch.

Innovative health devices and platforms test the extent to which consumers are willing to maintain data privacy. With informed consent, many devices – including HealthKit – allow third party applications to access individual users’ health data. Nonetheless, a recent report to President Obama from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology suggests existing informed consent practices represent a market failure as users are provided with a take-it-or-leave-it set of terms with minimal time to evaluate offers. The report argues that instead, the responsibility of using personal health data should reside with providers, not users.

Ethical, legal, and social (ESL) challenges associated with personalized health technology are an emerging focus area for the Vitality Institute.

Stay tuned for additional details that will be presented alongside recommendations from our Commission on Health Promotion and the Prevention of Chronic Disease in Working-Age Americans at the Vitality Institute’s upcoming event “Within Reach: An Action Plan for our Nation’s Health and Prosperity”.

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