Let’s be clear about technology for some time: Concepts such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Machine Learning and AR / VR are pretty cool, but until their use cases can be converted from novelty to necessity, they will just remain a fad. This is the fundamental upon which concepts such as Lifelogging and The Quantified Self are based, and I’m seeing things go from “Oh look, I ran 5kms today” to “I ran 5kms today, but my pace fell at this particular stretch, owing to which I exerted myself. Maybe if I work on my pace for this stretch, I could run 8kms tomorrow.”
But I digress.
The healthcare sector, for all this time, has been about medical practitioners and doctors forming informed opinions depending on parameters that they observe. While we aren’t talking about reinventing the wheel here, the biggest names in tech are looking at the flaws – such as administrative efficiencies, an inexcusable latency period between disease detection and treatment, and a complete dependency on doctors to tell you if you’re suffering from a disease or not.
And this is where the power of data comes in. The healthcare sector is poised to undergo a series of disruptions, with the involvement of Apple and other big companies, along with technical advancements that are already in place.
In recent times, there have been quite a few headlines when it comes to the biggest names in Silicon Valley getting serious about healthcare. Cases in point being Amazon, Apple, Google and even Uber.
Amazon came into a partnership with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway earlier this year, with the primary aim of bringing down healthcare costs for its employees. The popular opinion is that Amazon will be utilizing its technical knowhow to create platforms for administering health care, while at the same time tapping into distribution chains by selling medical devices, perhaps even becoming an online pharmacy.
Google (through Verily) aims at administering health insurance more effectively, while Uber is implementing Uber Health, which will allow health care providers to book rides for their patients to and from their appointments.
And then, there’s Apple.
APPLE’S TAKE ON HEALTHCARE
Apple is opening two clinics in California, which would deliver a holistic approach to healthcare, which brings doctors, lab technicians, specialists and care navigators. While the clinics are aimed at employees and their families for now, it does open up avenues for the question: If it’s Apple, what can be expected?
The Verge states that Apple will be using the new clinics to test its health-related products and services, which makes a lot of sense, given that the Apple Watch is taking on different avatars to measure different parameters in the near future. While I’ve already talked about quite a few of these parameters, it is interesting to note that Apple is reportedly working on an EKG reader as well, which will be directly incorporated into future Apple Watch models.
But, there’s more. iOS 11.3 came with a Health App, which enables users to visualize, aggregate and store their health records from multiple hospitals, along with the data captured directly from the Apple Watch and the iPhone, in order to create a more refined perspective of the user’s health.
COMMUNICATING BETWEEN EHRs & IPHONES
So this is what Apple has on their website: FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) standard APIs are used to establish a connection between a hospital’s EHR (Electronic Health Record) and a user’s Health App. The data supported includes allergies, immunisations, procedures performed and other vitals.
The Health app is designed to connect to EHR APIs to pull any new health records and notifies the user when new data is available.
Finally, addressing the security concerns, Apple states that the health data in the Health app is encrypted on-device, and if the user chooses to sync the health data with iCloud, it is encrypted while in transit, and at rest.
Apple has some good use cases where its technology is used in digitizing health care, including enabling medical practitioners to access health data records, allowing users to record their health data, and even providing the tools to developers to build apps using ResearchKit. The scope is really quite interesting, and I’ll leave the link here.
DATA DRIVEN HEALTHCARE: COMING SOON?
Absolutely! I’ve always maintained one thing: doctors and medical practitioners won’t be replaced by technology for some time, but data driven decisions will definitely become more important in the coming years, as opposed to formulating opinions. Users might not be able to diagnose their own illnesses for some time, but they will definitely be warned sooner upon the onset of certain conditions.
Data points are becoming cool again, and non-invasive sensors are gaining a momentum like never before. And when data driven decisions make their foray into the $3 trillion healthcare sector industry (in the US alone), health care costs will be reduced, the system will become more streamlined, and action plans will become more quantifiable.