August 08, 2014 |

The future of mobile health got a bit more exciting with Apple’s recent announcement of iOS 8, Health App and HealthKit. And there’s a lot to be excited about. Given the popularity of personal health and fitness applications and more than 800 million iOS devices sold worldwide, Apple is positioned to impact mHealth in a big way.

The Health App is a user interface providing a dashboard view of heart rate, blood pressure, fitness, nutrition, sleep patterns and blood glucose and cholesterol levels. HealthKit is the framework software that developers work with to marry information among personal health devices and share information with healthcare providers. It enables a holistic view of a user’s health and fitness, empowering patients to interact with physicians on a variety of health matters and actively participate in their care. This is particularly promising for the treatment of chronic conditions such as asthma, hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

But as with all markets and technology platforms, there are pros and cons to consider before developers jump on the HealthKit bandwagon. The opportunity is promising, but there are a number of commercial and technical issues.

Without a doubt, the most exciting part of HealthKit is the ability to leverage Apple’s reach into the hyper-growth mHealth market, expected to grow 39 percent annually to $11.8 billion by 2018. This growth represents a tremendous software development opportunity and will attract a number of new entrants and an active development marketplace.

Specific to the HealthKit announcement, Apple announced partnerships with the Mayo Clinic and Epic. The Mayo Clinic partnership is a meaningful endorsement of Apple’s mHealth strategy from a leading and highly respected healthcare provider. The Epic relationship is equally impressive and promising, as Epic is a leading provider of electronic health records. Both relationships indicate a commitment from Apple and acceptance from healthcare leaders of the HealthKit vision and solution structure. For software developers, these relationships may signal a market direction and justify dedicating resources and investing energy in HealthKit, as opposed to competing healthcare platforms.

With the HealthKit framework, developers are no longer required to form partnerships or negotiate relationships with each other to share information. This creates the opportunity for a faster and lower cost software development environment to share information with complementary applications, creating comprehensive information users may value more than standalone applications can provide.

Apple’s involvement in mHealth, the noted endorsements for HealthKit and the sheer size and growth rate of the mHealth market are obvious reasons for developers to get excited. Combine that with opportunities associated with market infancy and the potential to reduce a number of operational costs related to developing applications in a shared use environment, and many developers will find the HealthKit platform too tempting to pass up.

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Kevin Fu, Ph.D. – Privacy & Security Forum…
Kevin Fu, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan and speaker at the 2014 Privacy & Security Forum in San Diego, addresses the vulnerabilities and potential risks of medical devices.

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