Apple is rolling out a slew of new iOS updates next week, but the most anticipated piece of software is probably its Health app, created with health data keyed in from more than 1 billion users.
Apple first teased its ambitious health app back in 2015, when CEO Tim Cook talked about the company’s dream to create a “single, integrated medical record that’s on every Apple device.”
Health professionals have been hyping up the app ever since.
“We know now that the basics are being figured out,” said Gary Zimmel, an Ohio State University health systems professor. “This is a significant breakthrough in consumer medical record.”
Apple’s Health app is a great place to start, said Zimmel, because it already has reliable medical data in place, and it has the company’s advertising and lifestyle perspective. “It’s a giant dump of information about where people live, who their friends are, how they exercise,” he said.
But the app still has plenty of kinks to be worked out. It collects information from dozens of devices ranging from smartwatches to workout trackers. It also can’t connect up with insurance systems.
“It can’t connect to all of the systems in the same way that the app can with Samsung, Apple watches and the Fitbit,” Zimmel said.
Apple may finally be close to tackling that issue in Health app 15, which is scheduled to roll out June 19.
According to a recent report in Reuters, the new version of the app will include a method by which it can connect to existing insurance networks. And in the past few weeks, three big insurance companies–Aetna, UnitedHealth Group and OptumHealth–have announced the creation of a new network together, which would allow that organization to connect with Apple’s Health app in a broader way.
Apple declined to comment.
Still, although Apple has been working on the Health app for two years, it’s unclear how long it will take the company to coordinate all the data it has on its users.
The updated Health app could be an early success for the company’s initiative to become a health tech powerhouse, said Chris Applegate, president of EdgehealthAnalytics, a health technology research and consulting firm.
“The much-publicized iPhone app is not without its challenges, given the sheer number of devices and sensors that have yet to be connected,” Applegate said.
But when the Health app gets a good reputation among health consumers, that could prove instrumental for future software updates, Applegate said.
“If the Health app is thought to be delivering consistent data through consistent business practices and a need for consistency, it may affect how consumers and members will choose which solutions they want to use for doing wellness, prevention, and disease management,” Applegate said.