Apple reveals tracking app HealthKit and partners with Mayo Clinic, Epic

By: Jonah Comstock | Jun 2, 2014        

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HealthkitAt Apple’s WWDC event, the company announced its rumored native health tracking platform, which we now know to be called HealthKit. Rumors have circulated that the tracking platform would be called HealthBook, though we noted previously that was probably not the official name.

“Developers have created a vast array of healthcare devices and accompanying applications, everything from monitoring your activity level, to your heart rate, to your weight, and chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.” Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said at the event. “But up until now the information gathered by those applications lives in silos. You can’t get a single comprehensive picture of your health situation. But now you can, with HealthKit. HealthKit provides a single place that applications can contribute to a composite profile of your activity and health.”

The platform HealthKit comes with a user-facing app simply called “Health”. 

“With Health, you can monitor all of the metrics you’re most interested and your activity, but not just that,” said Federighi. “You can use third-party applications. Now we carefully protect your privacy, so you have total control over which applications have access to your health information. But you can of course provide different activity, weight, heart rate information to the Nike app. And Nike’s working to integrate HealthKit, so they use that information to help you in your personalized fitness goals.”

In addition to Nike, Apple showed devices from Fitbit, Wahoo Fitness, iHealth, and Withings. Apple’s highlighting of Nike as an integration partner is not a huge surprise, given the two companies’ long history of tight integrations and partnerships. When Nike was reported to let go a large part of its hardware team, we predicted that it might be letting the FuelBand go in favor of a partnership with Apple’s iWatch offering.

A more surprising integration announced from the WWDC stage was with the Mayo Clinic. Federighi announced that Mayo has already created an app to integrate with HealthKit.

“We’re also working with the Mayo Clinic, innovators in healthcare,” he said. “And with their integration with HealthKit, they’re going to be able to — when a patient takes a blood pressure reading, HealthKit automatically notifies their app. And their app is automatically able to check whether that reading is in that patients’ personalized healthcare parameters threshold. And if not, it can contact the hospital proactively, notify a doctor, and that doctor can reach back to that patient, providing more timely care.”

Apple Healthkit 2Finally, although he didn’t talk specifically about the relationship, Federighi also said that Epic Systems has developed an integration with HealthKit, suggesting a framework for getting information collected via HealthKit into patients’ MyChart app. Federighi shared a slide with logos of healthcare systems using Epic’s EHR and said that patients at those facilities would benefit from a HealthKit integration with their providers.

We first reported on rumors of Apple’s “Healthbook” application in February, when 9to5Mac reported on the existence of the rumored app. The WWDC announcement didn’t make it clear exactly what parameters the app would track, but Health and HealthKit appear to be stripped down versions of the rumored HealthBook, which was rumored to include medication adherence tracking that integrated with Apple’s iReminder app.

The announcement did tend more toward the clinical than expected, with the announced integrations with both Mayo Clinic and Epic. However, this doesn’t mean that MobiHealthNews’ prediction that the device would shy away from FDA clearance was wrong. Because Apple is working with third party sensors that are already cleared or not in need of clearance, as long as it doesn’t analyze the data from a regulated medical device, it can still display it in its app without having to be cleared as a Class II medical device.

It’s still unclear how many of the high-profile health hires Apple has made recently are working on HealthKit, and how many are working on Apple’s still-unannounced iWatch.