Apple injects health features into Watch

Not to be lost among all of Apple's new products is an upgraded Watch tuned for remote monitoring
By Eric Wicklund
02:43 PM
Person with Apple Watch

With many eyes focusing on Cupertino Wednesday Apple held another launch event and, as is becoming the norm, did so with a few surprises up its sleeve.

There's a shiny Apple TV and the tvOS to go along with it, Office 365 for the newly-minted iPad Pro, the always anticipated new iPhones of course and, what Apple would like to be most relevant to healthcare organizations: an upgraded Apple Watch.

For this launch event, in fact, the Apple Watch is where it spotlighted the potential for use in the healthcare realm with an app that can connect a mother-to-be to her doctor.

Sense4Baby was adapted for the new Apple Watch OS2 through a partnership with AirStrip. One of some 10,000 apps now available through the Apple App Store for the watch – Android by comparison has approximately 4,000 apps – the connection marks a further evolution of the smartwatch as a clinical tool.

That OS2 was unveiled via a healthcare test case shouldn't come as a surprise, however. Healthcare providers and mHealth companies jumped on the first iteration of the Apple Watch this past spring with a number of pilots and test applications, most focused around communications and data retrieval and viewing.

With this update, Apple is looking to separate from the growing smartwatch market by fine-tuning those applications that appeal not only tom consumers, but to the enterprise market. And healthcare leads that pack.

That potential was demonstrated onstage by Cameron Powell, co-founder of San Antonio-based AirStrip, a longtime player in the mHealth landscape. Powell pointed out that clinicians can use the newly updated Apple Watch  to make rounds, view schedules, communicate with care team members and even view lab results.

"I actually can travel to see what's next," Powell said. "If a nurse sends me a message, I can immediately see all this relevant data. Here I can send a HIPAA-compliant secure message to a member of the patient's care team."

Powell then highlighted the Sense4Baby app, which AirStrip acquired in early 2014. The Sense4Baby platform turns the smartphone into a fetal monitoring tool for expectant mothers, he pointed out, enabling the mother to look at and hear her baby's heartbeat, then send all that information in real-time to her doctor – all via the Apple Watch.

"I can see the baby's heart rate and the mother's contractions," Powell noted. "I can differentiate between the mother's heart rate and the baby's heart rate," Powell explained, "which has been a problem for years in home monitoring." 

Apple's updated Watch will be available by Sept. 16. 

Related articles: 

Patient portals: More useful than many realize?

What healthcare organizations need to know now about Windows 10

Salesforce unwraps post-EHR platform for patient relationship management