Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"Wait A Sec." Three Questions on Apple's HealthKit

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This post was contributed by @MikeMadarasz

Apple’s HealthKit has been a favorite topic of bloggers since the company unveiled plans for its digital health tracking platform last week.  John Noseworthy, CEO of the Mayo Clinic, referred to it as “revolutionary”, however, you’ll not be hard-pressed to find a group that is skeptical of that notion.  The brief nature of the announcement itself left many questions unanswered and invited those in the field to poke holes at the plans for HealthKit.  

Apple also opened themselves up to some to additional abuse by incorrectly displaying the units for blood sugar measurements during the presentation.  And while this oversight may not have any real implications on the future of HealthKit, some other concerns seemingly hold more water.

Is this even the right data?
The group of apps with some of the highest adoption rates are of the exercise and fitness variety.  One study found that of users of health apps, almost half (48%) of them use a fitness app-- The second highest of any category.  However, the users of these apps are an inherently active bunch that as a group, does not necessarily need real-time feedback from physicians.

In addition, exercise and fitness activity account for the biggest chunk of health data available.  While the information no doubt has some value, other measurements that are often more valuable, such as heart rate and blood pressure, are absent.  When looking at the information at our disposal, how useful is a lot of it in practice?  Is the core data from MyFitnessPal and Nike+ going to fuel “revolutionary” breakthroughs?  Probably not.   

How willing are users going to be to participate?
A study shows that only 16% of smart phone users access health apps regularly.  In addition, another survey shows that 60% of smart phone users never use a health app.  Obviously, adoption would need to pick up in order for HealthKit to truly be revolutionary, but one must wonder what it’s going to take for that to happen.  One school of thought would be that those who truly need the real time feedback from physicians will be willing to assume usage of these apps.  Data suggests otherwise as those with a chronic condition are only 11% more likely to adopt. 

Buy in from providers and their willingness to flip the bill for accompanying devices is another factor.  Many of these devices are beginning to move towards the more affordable side and become more practical for the masses.  For example, iHealth now sells a glucometer for around $30 that tracks measurements in real time with its free app.  However, payers still must be convinced of the value of such apps before we see them covered. 

Could privacy concerns become an obstacle?
How will HealthKit impact digital pharma?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) could prove to be a tricky issue to navigate.  Although the regulations are complicated, the two fundamental question’s developers need to consider according to Adam Greene are who will be using the app and what information will be on it.  When the app is being used by an HCP, often times it will fall under HIPAA.  When it’s being used by a patient, it will generally not fall under those restrictions. As far as the types of information, according to Jason Wang, any of the data on your phone classified as “protected health information” may fall under HIPPA when it is transmitted from your phone or tablet.  

Even so, users have shown an aversion to sharing much of this information.  According to Health IT Security, most (56%) of patients are either “concerned” or “very concerned” about the theft of health related personal information.  When it comes to transmitting this data, privacy could be a concern in terms of both user sentiment and federal regulations. 

With the release of HealthKit coming later this year, there’s still plenty of time left to speculate on the implications of Apple’s platform.  That said, the above probably warrant some consideration in any future conjecture. 

The claims are that HealthKit could be game changing.  We’ll have more on game changing strategies and innovation at ePharma West, September 22-24, San Francisco, CA.  Check out what’s in store, and download the agenda here

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