Providers: Apple Watch, HealthKit intriguing for patient care, but challenges persist


As Apple looks to team with provider organizations and other health technology vendors on efforts relating to its forthcoming HealthKit platform and its new wearable device, Apple Watch, it will be interesting to see how much traction it gains among clinicians.

To that end, we queried our FierceHealthIT Editorial Advisory Board for their thoughts on Apple's new offerings. Here's what six of our advisers had to say:

Roger Neal, vice president and CIO, Duncan (Oklahoma) Regional Hospital (pictured right): Ultimately, as a geek, I really like stuff like that for myself. But, my professional techie persona is trying to figure out how to make it all work in our new healthcare world. Some of these systems are capturing more and more relevant information that would be wonderful to have in a patient's global chart, but trying to get at that data securely, import it somewhere and store all of it on patient after patient scares me. Where is it all going to go and how are we going to make it all work securely and privately together?

I think at some point, a lot of this information will be more relevant for healthcare than today. We'll get there and the sophisticated tracking and monitoring via watch, wristband, clothing or whatever will play a part in that. I think on the population wellness front, these types of tools can be of great use if you can co-manage all the data coming in on hundreds or thousands of patients.

The drawback right now is that these are all new and will need some time to grow up to really provide highly useful information; the back end systems will have to evolve to handle that data across multiple mediums to a point that healthcare professionals can analyze and get at that data to interpret it successfully on each patient.

Joseph Kvedar, director, Partners HealthCare's Center for Connected Health (pictured left): Our experience is that you need the right analytics to drive personalization to keep people engaged. So, if HealthKit turns out to be just another place to store health-related data--moving from a Web application to a smartphone--I really don't think it will achieve widespread adoption. We've also seen limited success for other smartwatches. The trick here is to create what I call a "frictionless" user experience. It also has to be aesthetically pleasing, for someone to want to wear it on their wrist every day.

One of the barriers to adoption is that we haven't yet given individuals enough of a reason to store all of their health data on one platform. Add to that the fact that people don't feel compelled to take ownership of their health data. HealthKit will overcome some of these barriers. However, without focusing on engagement--making it personal, motivation and ubiquitous--I fear no device, smartphone or app will achieve widespread adoption.

We know that after about six months, most trackers end up in a drawer. At the Center for Connected Health, we're learning a great deal about how to empower individuals to self-manage their health, and what providers need to do with all of this patient-generated data. The one critical element we must get right, is figuring out how to "sell" health to consumers and keep them coming back for more.