Apple designs and creates the iPhone, iPad, Mac notebooks and desktop computers, iOS 8, OS X, iPod and iTunes, and the new Apple Watch

Gamification and the diagnosis of Learning Disabilities

Last week during one of our favorite tweetchats (#HITSM -- Fridays at 12noon Eastern) the topic of gamification in Healthcare came up.

Gamification has been a fairly hot topic for a few years now, and many industries are scrambling to understand it, and to find ways that they can use gamification to improve client engagement in their product(s)

Wikipedia defines Gamification as

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems and increase users' self contributions.

What happened to Apple's commitment to quality?

I just finished downloading and installing yet another update to the operating system on my Macbook.

People pay a premium price for Apple products and reasonably expect to receive a superior product. A MacBook pro costs $1,299. A comparable HP laptop (the EliteBook 745 ) starts at $749. A 9.7 inch iPad Pro (with 32GB of storage) costs $599, while a 9.7 Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 with 32GB is $499.

Apple Unveils Open-Source Software To Improve Health Research

On Monday, Apple announced the upcoming release of ResearchKit, which will allow researchers to gather data from iPhone users to help further medical research, Reuters reports (Steenhuysen, Reuters, 3/9).

ResearchKit is an open-source software platform that includes disease-specific applications that patients can use to track their symptoms. It can be used to gather iPhone users' data and find potential study participants (Belluz, Vox, 3/9). Users will have the option of participating in studies and indicating certain data sharing preferences. If users allow, researchers also will be able to access an iPhones accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS and microphone sensors to study participants':

  • Fitness;
  • Gait;
  • Memory;
  • Motor impairment; and
  • Speech (Reuters, 3/9).

Researchers also will be able to access data from Apple's HealthKit (Verel, MedCity News, 3/9). The HealthKit platform culls health data -- including asthma inhaler use, blood pressure, glucose levels and weight -- from fitness and health apps on iPhones (Reuters, 3/9). In addition, HealthKit can harness data from the newly unveiled Apple Watch. Apple will not be able to access the data (MedCity News, 3/9).

According to Reuters, ResearchKit is expected to help create study populations that are more diverse (Reuters, 3/9).

Apple Senior Vice President of Operations Jeff Williams also said that the tool would help researchers with problems of small sample sizes or issues resulting from subjective or potentially faulty data (Tahir, Modern Healthcare, 3/9).

ResearchKit will be available to the general public next month. Meanwhile, five apps built with the research tool by Apple and medical research partners are available in Apple's App Store, including apps to aid research on:

  • Asthma;
  • Breast cancer;
  • Cardiovascular disease;
  • Diabetes; and
  • Parkinson's disease (MedCity News, 3/9).


John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a member of the federal Health IT Policy committee, said, "Voluntary contribution of personal data in support of clinical research is real medical altruism." He added, "I applaud Apple for providing the middleware which makes this easy for researchers and secure for patients."

Bradley Merrill Thompson, general counsel for mHealth Regulatory Coalition, said, "Clinical trials are very expensive and heretofore have been conducted very inefficiently when it comes to data management." He added, "So this could be a fairly disruptive technology. Improving the administration of clinical trials is of very high public health importance" (Gold, Politico, 3/9).

Apple Launches Smartwatch

Meanwhile, Apple on Monday also officially launched its smartwatch, which it intends to serve as a "comprehensive health and fitness companion," Health Data Management reports.

Apple Watch, which requires users to have an iPhone as its wireless foundation, tracks and monitors users' physical activity using:

  • An accelerometer;
  • A built-in heart rate sensor;
  • GPS; and
  • Wi-Fi from iPhone.

The smartwatch also can send users reminders to be more active and display a report of individuals' weekly activity.

Apple Watch will be available in nine countries including the U.S., beginning April 24. The smartwatch will be available in two different sizes, 38 mm and 42 mm, and in three versions:

  • Apple Watch Sport, which costs $349 and $399;
  • Apple Watch, which costs $549 and $1,099; and
  • Apple Watch Edition, which is crafted from rose or yellow 18-karat gold alloys and priced starting at $10,000 (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 3/10).
Source: iHealthBeat, Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Apple Touts Health Initiatives in Newly Unveiled Apple Watch, iPhone


Apple announced the release of its new iPhone and its Apple Watch, which CEO Tim Cook called a comprehensive fitness and health device, Healthcare IT News reports (Monegain, Healthcare IT News, 9/9).

Apple Watch Details

The Apple Watch is expected to launch in early 2015 at a starting price of $349 (Comstock, MobiHealthNews, 9/9). It will require users to use iPhone as its wireless foundation (Brino, Government Health IT, 9/9).

At its launch, the device will use a built-in application suite consisting of two apps:

  • An Activity app that tracks day-to-day exercise activity, movement and minutes standing per day; and
  • A Workout app that allows users to set a goal based on calories, distance, heart rate or time.

In addition, a companion Fitness app on users' iPhones will aggregate data from both the Activity and Workout apps and share that data with Apple's cloud-based health information platform HealthKit, which was announced earlier this year.

In addition, the Apple Watch will have the ability to:

  • Use a built-in accelerometer to track people's movements;
  • Monitor heart rates through optical sensors located in the back of the watch; and
  • Use data from GPS and WiFi on users' iPhones to collect additional information.

Jay Blahnik, Apple's director of Health, Fitness Technologies, said, "Over time, Apple Watch actually gets to know you the way a good personal trainer would. It is designed to deliver intelligent reminders to keep you motivated and on track. It can suggest goals that are personal, realistic and most important, achievable, which gives you a far better chance of succeeding" (MobiHealthNews, 9/9).

Meanwhile, Michael Mytych, a principal at Health Information Consulting, said the Apple Watch has the potential to significantly improve medication adherence by tracking when medications are supposed to be taken and sending reminders to users.

However, he raised concerns about the device's battery life being able to support health care tasks (Goedert, Health Data Management, 9/10).

iPhone 6's Health Features

Apple also announced some new health-related features that will be included with its iPhone 6.

Specifically, Apple said that the phone will come with an M8 chip that will use a built-in barometer to estimate altitude changes to deduce the number of steps a user climbs.

In addition, the phone could have some effects on telemedicine efforts, according to MobiHealthNews. For example, the new iPhone will have:

  • An updated camera that could make photographing wounds and blemishes easier; and
  • An updated FaceTime app that supports a front-facing HD camera, which could improve video visits with providers (MobiHealthNews, 9/9).

Possible Mayo Clinic Partnership

According to reports, the Mayo Clinic might endorse Apple Watch as a tool to help patients improve and maintain their health, Healthcare IT News reports.

Reports noted that Mayor Clinic representatives were scheduled to be present at the announcement, but they did not make an appearance during the meeting (Healthcare IT News, 9/9).

According to Modern Healthcare, the Mayo Clinic already has a patient app available through the iTunes app store.

John Wald, the clinic's medical director for public affairs, said, "We will see what the [Apple Watch] brings from the remote-monitoring perspective. I think the [Apple Watch] is one tool to begin to remotely monitor these patients" (Tahir, Modern Healthcare, 9/8).

Privacy Concerns

Meanwhile, some privacy experts have expressed concerns over how Apple will keep user data safe as it moves toward collected health data.

For example, experts have asked:

  • If users will be able to see how their data are being used;
  • Whether Apple with comply with HIPAA;
  • How Apple will handle and report data breaches; and
  • How Apple will address apps from developers that sell data to third parties.

While Apples has not specifically addressed privacy and security concerns, it has taken some steps to ensure users' privacy (Dwoskin/Beck, "Digits," Wall Street Journal, 9/9). For example, Apple has changed its iOS developer license agreement to prohibit developers from selling health information collected through HealthKit "to advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers." In addition, the agreement states that developers are not permitted to use the HealthKit app or data collected from it "for any purpose other than providing health and/or fitness services" (iHealthBeat, 9/3).

Source: iHealthBeat, Wednesday, September 10, 2014