Apple wants HealthKit to grow from a basic health and fitness tracker to a platform for monitoring even more about us, and to use that information to help diagnose medical issues. Considering Apple’s commitment to improving our health, there’s no reason why the company can’t reach that goal—but not before a big issue get resolved.
HealthKit currently logs fitness information, like how far we walk each day and the flights of stairs we climb, along with data other apps and devices collect such as our heart rate and sleep patterns. That information is displayed in the Health app, and that’s where you can see the problem Apple needs to overcome: reliability.
The Health and Activity apps work fine for most people, but some workouts and other tracked activities don’t always show up in the former even though they’re logged in the latter—and that’s a problem. A gym workout that’s logged on your Apple Watch and iPhone, but not in Health is an annoyance; if it’s your heart rate, blood pressure, or other metric health care providers are relying on for a medical diagnosis, missing information can be a serious issue.
Of course, doctors aren’t going to rely solely on HealthKit data for their diagnosis. Without that information, however, warning signs for bigger health issues might not be caught as early, and patients may miss seeing something that warrants a call to their doctor.
Bloomberg reports health monitoring for diagnosis is something Apple is looking at for the future, so there’s time to address the data syncing issues we’re seeing today. Insider sources also say Apple is working on apps to monitor sleep patters, and to help gauge fitness levels by watching how quickly your heart rate drops after a workout.
The next step, it seems, is to turn the iPhone and Apple Watch into our personal health and fitness advisory team. “If you drive for a while and your car gets too hot, it says pull over,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at a conference in Amsterdam earlier this year. “If you need an oil change, it says check your oil. What’s the equivalent for the body?”
That sounds pretty awesome, and I’d love to have my iPhone and Apple Watch looking out for me. I’ve already had an allergy-related health scare where my Apple Watch was a big help, and Chuck La Tournous credits his Apple Watch with saving his life. That’s reason enough for me to keep wearing my watch and to get excited about how useful my mobile devices may be in the future.
Before I feel comfortable making that jump—whenever it comes—Apple needs to make sure all our health and fitness data syncs reliably all the time. This is one place where Apple has to get it right the first time because deploy-and-fix simply isn’t an option when real medical data is on the line.