The new HealthKit in Apple’s latest iPhone operating system offers exciting features for both users and developers.
“We’re energized by the positive impact Apple Watch is having on our customers and are excited to deliver meaningful new tools that support their health, fitness, and wellness,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.
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Comprehensive Symptoms Tracker
With the latest iOS version, Apple adds in many more options around symptom tracking and now can help users track more than 30 symptoms on their device.
Users may want to track a wide range of symptoms when it comes to monitoring their health data. Symptoms, when tracked properly, help you and your physician diagnose things properly.
Third-party developers can now read and write these detailed symptoms and build out visual dashboards on their apps.
ECG Data Availability
We already know that ECG App on the Apple Watch can accurately record heartbeat and heart rhythm.
This was introduced a few cycles back and has been a unique selling feature of the Apple Watch.
When you check your ECG using the digital crown on your watch, the watch also automatically checks for aFib.
Starting with iOS 14 and watchOS 7, ECG readings can now be read by third-party apps.
Apple not only offers the ECG status but also a list of associated symptoms. Developers can use the new HKElectrocardiogramQuery class to access ECG data.
What are the new Apple Mobility Metrics, and what’s its purpose?
Apple introduced new metrics called mobility metrics on the Apple Watch and iOS with watchOS 7.
These are a set of metrics designed to gauge the functional exercise capacity or the ability to do aerobic work.
They will also aid doctors with remote monitoring of patients.
Mobility is strongly tied to respiratory and heart health.
As per Dr. Malay Gandhi, alluding health tech influencer, physical activity, and functional activity are the “fifth vital sign.”
Using Apple’s Mobility metrics, individuals and healthcare providers can access this objective data.
This new set of metrics is critical to help monitor users recovering from an illness, injury, or regular monitoring of an elderly user.
Now your iPhone or Apple Watch can record some of these mobility metrics during bouts of walking.
Here are some of the elements that these new mobility metrics can measure and analyze:
- Walking Speed and step length – Walking takes some strength, balance, and coordination.
- Changes in any of these areas could impact your walking speed and length.
- By measuring your performance, apps can decipher how you might be recovering from an illness or injury.
- Walking Asymmetry – Measures balance and coordination by walking asymmetry and double support percentage.
- Stair Ascent and descent speed – These provide insight into your general cardiovascular health.
- 6MWT (Six-minute walk test distance) – This is a frequent clinical test to evaluate general mobility.
- Essentially the test measures the distance walked by a user in 6 minutes as a test for aerobic capacity and endurance in an individual.
- The more mobile and fit you are, the higher is the number. Physical rehabilitation centers often use this test for Gait assessment.
The six-minute walking test helps diagnose arthritis and joint issues, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, and stroke recovery.
Walking Steadiness Score introduced with iOS 15
Update: Apple has expended upon the mobility metrics in iOS 15 by adding in a new feature called “Walking Steadiness Score”.
The central idea around this feature is to predict how likely you are to fall. This feature will go a long way in helping people who suffer from accidental falls due to poor health and reduce emergency hospital visits.
There is already a clinical study in progress that is evaluating if this new Apple Health feature can cut down on emergency visits to the hospital for fall-related injuries in patients who are not in the best of their health.
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Walking Steadiness uses custom algorithms to assess balance, stability, and coordination through built-in motion sensors on iPhone. This first-of-its-kind metric was established using real-world data from the Apple Heart and Movement Study, with more than 100,000 participants across all ages — the largest data set ever used to study fall risk.
In addition to alerting users of possible fall risk, Walking Steadiness helps users meet their stability goals. Users can choose to receive a notification when their score is Low or Very Low, and be directed to curated visual exercises that are based on clinically validated methods to increase strength and balance.
Apple has also included new movement exercises in IOS 15 Health app that will help users get more strength and gain more balance for mobility.
Apple research study partnerships
Apple is already participating in a study with Stanford health in using some of this technology with patients recovering from spinal cord surgeries.
The 6MWT will be available on the Apple Watch and is a weekly metric that uses activity clues within natural walking to estimate formal 6MWT test results.
Walking Speed and step length metrics will be available also via iPhone. This will be available on an intraday basis and doesn’t require any GPS calibration on your iPhone.
These new metrics and associated data will be really beneficial for third party developers who are focussed on developing new HealthKit based apps.
When looking for third party apps in this space, it is important to look for apps that work with HealthKit.
We expect many new App launches in the coming months to provide users with new functionality and dashboards for better disease and symptoms management based on these HealthKit offerings from Apple.