Rarely are we introduced to something so extraordinarily innovative and revolutionary that we’re incapable of fully comprehending it’s power, while still being left feeling somewhat unsatisfied. For healthcare enthusiasts, however, this was the case this past Tuesday during Apple’s September 2014 Keynote that introduced the world to the all-new Apple Watch.
Make no mistake; the Apple Watch is a groundbreaking trailblazer – a first-generation device with a level of functionality unlike anything we’ve seen before. So what’s the issue? It might not seem reasonable that something so unprecedented can leave us disappointed, and perhaps our initial expectations were unrealistic. Yet still, strictly from a healthcare standard, there is more to be desired.
For months now, we’ve been hit with a barrage of rumors and predictions regarding the Apple Watch’s healthcare-related capabilities. In June, Apple officially stepped foot into the healthcare field when it introduced it’s “Health” app and cloud-based health-information platform called, “HealthKit.” There is no denying that Apple is fully committed to pioneering the correspondence between wearable’s and healthcare, they just might not be at stage we had hoped based on the information given in the Keynote – although it should be known that Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, did make it point to emphasize that there will be additional features that were not discussed due to time restrictions.
As we now know, many of the rumors and predictions we hear about future Apple products are not exactly reliable – look at what people thought the first iPhone would look like. So it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that the watch cannot accurately predict heart attacks, and we shouldn’t be shocked that it cannot analyze our sweat. What was rather disappointing was that for the most part, Apple’s healthcare plans were not discussed at all.
During the program, Jay Blahnik, Apple’s Director of Fitness and Health Technologies described the watch as, “a comprehensive health and fitness device.” Judging strictly from what we saw during the Keynote, however, it seems that the fitness aspect is much more advanced than the health side of things. As a result, while many of us hoped the watch would be a more complete medical device, the reality is that it bears a much closer resemblance to nothing more than a high-powered fitness tracker.
Based on Apple’s track record from previous product releases, as well as their tight-lipped knack keeping information on unreleased products away from the public, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that the Health app and HealthKit are much more comprehensive than the keynote led on. That having been said, other than the fitness features, there were practically no other mentions of Apple’s long-awaited healthcare strategy. There were even rumors that Mayo Clinic, who has been working closely with Apple on these products for the past two years, was going to play a role in presenting the health features. Unfortunately, that presentation, along with most of the health-related information, was cut from the program.
While the initial presentation on the Apple Watch may have failed to live up to our expectations, one can certainly still see the potential impact that these devices can have on the healthcare industry. The inevitable emergence of wearable devices, such as the Apple Watch, has long been considered to be the next major step in healthcare’s revolutionary migration towards an industry more dependent on technology. Well, here it comes.
The sensor-technology that was unveiled during the fitness potion of the presentation will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in the Apple Watch’s ability to improve healthcare. One of the biggest problems in healthcare today is our inability to provide around-the-clock, continuous care. This is where the sensors ability to constantly monitor our vitals can transform the way we collect and share basic information with our doctors. It’s not unfathomable that these wearable devices are capable of detecting early warning signs of asthma attacks, epileptic seizures, and possibly even heart attacks. The technology of these devices doesn’t merely change the way we receive care from our doctors, but our ability to care for ourselves.
“The list of features is a mile long, and I’m certain that when developers get their hands on the developer kit, that list will get even longer, and there will be things that we couldn’t even imagine invented”
– Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
The future is certainly bright. Were we hoping for more? Yes. But it’s only a matter of time until the Apple Watch is an essential component of healthcare and a monumental influence on our ability to deliver the best care possible. We’re not unimpressed, just unsatisfied – for now.
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