It’s fair to say that the health ambitions of the Apple Watch are not yet realised. The Cupertino tech giant has gradually added new health features since the device first launched in 2015, taking a considered but somewhat cautious approach. At times Apple has requested FDA approval for certain features such as the ECG sensors and high/low heart rate notifications. For other sensors and features such as the blood oxygen sensor, Apple has opted to market them as informative but not as medical-grade features.
Shruthi Mahalingaiah of Harvard University claims that the Apple Watch isn’t living up to its potential. They site that the primary reason relates to a lack of access to data validation. Without the ability to do this, it makes it hard for medical professionals to include the data gathered by the watch into regular ways of working.
“How we practise is sometimes decades behind scientific discovery. We have got the personalized monitoring and we’ve got this whole medical-industrial complex — but how are they going to talk to each other?”The Financial times
It seems like the main reason for the slow uptake of Apple Watch data in medical fields comes down to the industry itself. The medical industry is notoriously slow. The data gathering capability of the Apple Watch is second to none but it needs validation and overall clearance from the FDA before doctors will accept it. And it will take longer still for them to integrate it into the way they work. That being said some health insurers such as Vitality in the UK take into account the health data captured by Apple Watch. The company offers its members an Apple Watch for free if they can maintain and achieve activity goals in the fitness app. It’s a smart incentive and does demonstrate a path for the medical industry to follow.
Apple is very much aware of the challenges to get widespread acceptance of the data gathered by the Apple Watch. In iOS 15, Apple released a feature called ’Health Sharing’. This feature allows users to share their data with doctors, care providers and even family members. But in the longer term, it’ll require accreditation and data validation before the Apple Watch can truly live up to its potential of being an “intelligent guardian for your health”. That remains to be seen.
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