SHAFAQNA – Apple’s HealthKit got off to a bumpy start, when bugs delayed the launch of apps that sync up with Cupertino’s Health app within iOS 8. It’s now ready for primetime, but can HealthKit overcome the issues that have plagued other e-health services like Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault?
Paging Dr. Google
Google Health was a way for users to centralize their personal health information. Introduced in 2008, it was an opt-in system where users could add data from medical providers, insurance companies, pharmacies, and related healthcare agencies. Google inked deals with CVS and provided links to the Withings scale, but Google Health suffered a few maladies right from the start.
It didn’t integrate with every healthcare provider or insurance company. The gatekeepers of patient health information struggled with what to share and consumers were just getting acquainted with the idea of access to their own digital health records.
And while people have always been interested in themselves, they weren’t yet interested in their quantified selves. It’s only in the past couple of years that fitness trackers like the Jawbone UP and Fitbit Flex have been a commonplace wardrobe item that pushes fitness data to social media sites.
Ultimately, a lack of consumer interest led Google to announce the end of Google Health in 2011. It officially pulled the plug in early 2013.
However, linking Google with health data still seems like a natural thing. So many turn to Google with their symptoms that the search engine has earned the nickname “Dr. Google” among physicians and is often the first unofficial diagnosis (and frequent source of undue panic) among patients. A recent Pew poll found 35 percent of Americans self-diagnose with a search and 59 percent seek general health information online.
In 2008, Google launched Google Flu Trends, which provides up-to-date flu-related activity estimates for all 50 states in the U.S. It got the attention of major insurance providers, though some have questioned its accuracy.
So it’s not surprising that Google has not abandoned its medical aspirations altogether. It revived its interest in consumer health data with the introduction of Google Fit at Google I/O earlier this year. The API is similar to Apple’s HealthKit in that it’s intended to work with health and fitness apps from phones and wearables. It provides, if not a complete picture of a person’s health, a good way to keep track of their efforts, results, and basic information. Unlike Google Health it does not store or track information from healthcare providers or insurance companies.
Banking on Microsoft
Microsoft HealthVault does, though. Like most things Microsoft does, it’s the more practical pragmatic but less popular alternative.
The service started in 2007 and is a Web-based way to store records from healthcare providers, including lab data and medications, as well as data from about 150 apps and over 200 consumer health and fitness devices.
Though it has an iPhone and Windows Phone app, there’s no official Android app, and tablet access appears to limited to Windows devices. As a result, it will likely remain the stodgy alternative to things like Apple HealthKit and Google Fit.
An Apple a Day
When it comes to e-health, Apple has several things in its favor.
Foremost there is the advantage that comes from manufacturing hardware that is near-constantly with the person whose health information it holds. There are iPhones that almost assuredly are in their owners’ hands more than they’re out of them but Apple has made known and soon will make available a piece of technology with an even tighter grasp.
In introducing Apple Watch, CEO Tim Cook touted it as a “comprehensive health and fitness companion.” By making one flagship watch rather than an array devices (a la Android Wear), Apple is taking advantage of its core competency: its ecosystem. It’s an important feature in any hardware but even more so when dealing with divided world of health.
Whether Apple Watch is popular with the general population, those who are health-focused have already gotten used to wearing fitness bands. Switching over to a device that does more and is more stylish shouldn’t be too much of a stretch, though the $349 starting price point could be an issue.
HealthKit, meanwhile, has a more serious side in that it is designed to work with electronic health records (EHRs). Three major EHR providers—Epic, Cerner, and Athenahealth—have signed on to integrate with HealthKit. This will unite, for patients and health providers, medical records with day-to-day health data. If fully and properly utilized it could provide a comprehensive medical picture for not just individuals but for researchers as well.
While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 mandates the implementation of electronic health records for public and private healthcare providers by 2015, the reality of that is a long way off. Completists of quantification will want their health information—all of it—available at their fingertips or on their wrists.
As with anything stored on the Web, one of the major drawbacks certainly is that there will be risks to patient privacy. Developers who want to work with HealthKit cannot sell the data to a third party or store it on iCloud, though users can back up their own data stored in the Health app to iCloud, “where it is encrypted while in transit and at rest,” according to Apple.
For more, check out 5 Apps You Should Sync to Apple Health.
Source : http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2469718,00.asp