Despite that most of the people who have ordered an Apple Watch haven’t received it yet, history tells us that when Apple gets into a new area of activity, big things happen. No wonder tech fans and stock pickers have been so excited about the Apple Watch. What is the watch going to revolutionize?
Though it has lately tempered some of the activity in this area, Apple clearly has its sights on revolutionizing health, one step at a time. With its combination of new tech appeal, jewellery attraction and sheer Apple brand momentum, the watch probably has what it takes to stake an unrivalled claim to wrist real estate even without its health functions. But it’s the health functions that may well lift the watch and Apple from leading player to game changer.
We can’t predict how in-device tech features, users and third party innovators will interact. For now, even on the first iteration of the Watch, applications range from the obvious to the intriguing:
Medication reminders Healthcare systems in the United States and beyond face many complex problems, but one of the most impactful also looks like one of the simplest: non-compliance, also known as people not taking their meds on time or in the right doses. Leading consumer health website WebMD is offering a free Watch app to address this issue. App users will have four options: Take the medication, skip it, snooze, or dismiss the reminder. Medisafe is launching a similar Watch app to go with its smartphone app.
These medication reminders are a relatively simple function and consumers who only have a smartphone and no Apple Watch still have plenty of alternatives for both iOS and Android devices.
On the face of it, this is not exactly pushing the boundaries or breaking new ground not already broached by others. The Pebble Watch offers fitness tracking among its other features, while Fitbit has extended its product range to include the ChargeHR. a versatile wrist device that tracks movement and heart rate, and syncs with smartphones.
Health care information CareEvolution and health benefit provider Anthem will be extending their Collaborative Family Health Record (cFHR) smartphone appto the Watch. The new feature here is that the Watch app will display push notifications medical and plan management information such as forgotten refills, possible drug interactions, and recommending screenings. As with many health-oriented Watch apps, cFHR is doing pretty much the same as the smartphone app but delivering it to the wrist.
Healthcare access The HealthTap DocNow App enables wearers to get in touch with a network of over 68,000 U.S. primary care doctors who have been admitted to the HealthTap Medical Expert Network. Through the Watch the app facilitates immediate live HD video consults at $2.99 per minute. The app offers the choice of storing and sharing a user’s healthcare data to help guide the consulting doctor.
This does break new ground, but it’s less down to the Watch technology than to the involvement of all those doctors in a new model of healthcare consultation. As with a number of other Watch apps, this function could also be offered to users who have only a smartphone or only a PC.
It’s early days for Apple Watch health apps. Many of the applications we’ve seen to date are smart and promising, but nothing yet merits being called a killer app. None of them yet look so unexpected and so revolutionary that they will reshape health, and concerns remain about privacy.
One big imponderable is user experience, and that’s hard to predict until hundreds of thousands of users have worn their Watch for a few months at least. It may be that constant corner-of-the-eye visibility makes the Watch a more powerful health behavior changer than smartphones or PostIt notes. It may be the good-enough-to-eat colors and sensual finish of the Watch that trigger an enduring orienting response. It may be the subtle touch experience and the “haptic feedback” of the Watch’s Taptic Engine that opens up a previously untapped channel of communication.
An even bigger imponderable is how the ecosystem around the Watch comes together and evolves. Healthcare is one of many areas of life where services are fragmented and user experiences are patchy. Apple has a knack for making tech ecosystems in which the services are integrated and the user experience is smooth. Tough as healthcare certainly is, it’s a bold pundit who will bet against Apple and the healthcare ecosystem being opened by the Watch.