Following weeks of hype, Apple hosted a 90 minute event in mid-March introducing the Apple Watch, a new MacBook, and new features to the world. From a healthcare perspective, this was more than an average launch day for Apple. The announcements introduced its most significant investment in health to date. As the dust continues to settle, here are the standouts from the event.

1. What’s Your Glance?

You heard it here first—the next overhyped buzzword is going to be “Glances,” which is a feature of the Apple Watch that provides scan able summaries that users seek most frequently, such as weather, calendars, and maps. “Glanceability” is critical for devices and apps looking to stand out in a competitive market. In one quick look at their wrist, users can see what is important to them, which also eliminates the need to physically pull out their phones every five minutes. Designing for a glance, similar to the effects of responsive web design, will continue to push designers to simplify and focus on what is critically important to the customer—speed to need. There are many opportunities to connect health literate visual design to this new flow of “glanceable health data.” Observing and curating the new wave of health, “Glances” will help inform familiar product design and establish a new set of data visualization standards.

However, while this new feature brings about exciting opportunities for the healthcare industry and enables consumers to better monitor their wellbeing, it also introduces questions about data privacy. How much information will people want openly visible to others? “Glances” may be the small step a patient needs to take more ownership of their day-to-day health—but will the need for privacy diminish this new feature?

Another important consideration is the behavior that will come with “Glances” and the establishment of social norms on when it is acceptable to look at a notification. Today, people often check their phones at inopportune or impolite times. While the approach the Apple Watch takes seems a bit more polite, it has the potential to convey that someone is impatient—especially if that person glances at his or her watch multiple times during meetings or interactions with others.

2. Human Experience Is Missing
Prior Apple announcements have struck a balance between technology, functionality, and products’ ultimate impact on consumers. This recent event was high on the first two, but low on the third. Apple is an experience company that creates technology users “can’t live without,” but the “can’t live without” moments were missing. The iPhone already has a lot of the functionality that the Apple Watch offers, and other than the poor etiquette of pulling out the iPhone to glance at mid-conversation, it is a highly functional device.

The health experience across generations, particularly those facing chronic diseases and significant lifestyle challenges, can be improved through more consistent, visible, and relevant reinforcement of recommended treatments. While current wearables on the market have the ability to capture some data, to date, their full potential in delivering valuable, actionable information about the human experience is lacking. The tactile response and visible reminders of healthy behavior hold potential, and the Apple Watch’s differentiating features could be a contributor to and catalyst for change—not a solution that exists in isolation, like those currently fastened around millions of wrists.

3. ResearchKit Needs a PR Campaign
The concept of ResearchKit, an open source software framework that makes it easy for researchers and developers to create apps to gather user data for medical studies, is a fantastic one. Unfortunately, a large portion of the population does not understand how clinical trials are conducted, which could potentially decrease the impact ResearchKit has on the general public. In addition, with much concern around data privacy, Apple must make a larger effort to educate people on the value of their data and how they can donate it to responsible parties through ResearchKit.

Companies such as Google, Qualcomm, and Samsung have been innovating in the health arena for quite some time, and Apple is now jumping on the train to further drive its IBM healthcare mobility partnership and compete with Samsung’s Digital Health platform. Hopefully, these efforts are being driven by opportunities to significantly improve human lives, rather than trendiness.

4. New MacBook Features Can Also Change Healthcare
Some of the MacBook’s technical components are interesting—in particular, advancements in battery life, cooling, noise reduction, and profile reduction portend the future of meaningful and personal digital experiences. Force Click holds tremendous potential, as it creates a more tactile experience, and its application in the Apple Watch and MacBook is a precursor to its inclusion in future iPhones and iPads®.

When applied to healthcare, a haptic experience (the sense of touch), or in the case of the MacBook, a taptic experience, can speed information retrieval for physicians, introduce new mechanisms for capturing data in trials, and further personalize the patient experience. USB-C (a faster and more powerful USB device) is also promising and a logical progression. Many see this as the company forcing millions of consumers to replace their dongles (a plug-in security device) while generating additional revenue from peripherals, but a universal connector allows products to connect to more peripherals and expand the ways the device can be used. This interoperability will also have significant impacts on the healthcare environment, where mobility is critical to care delivery and decisions are impacted by timely information at the point of care.

Having more responsive screens that are seamlessly connected drives a larger vision of the Internet of Things (IoT), and the industry should think more broadly about screens, sensors, and data, rather than fixate on a particular device.

5. What’s Still Missing?
The wearables space still feels like a hardware store of hammers searching for nails. Wearables have an adherence problem; many people tend to wear them for a few months and then stop. A more significant investment like an Apple Watch may force people to perceive a higher value and consequently be adherent for longer periods of time.

This shift will also require moving devices and programs past fitness to support broader health behaviors and address an expanded set of chronic conditions, so other wearables manufacturers will need to diversify their audiences across generations and lifestyles. Companies such as UnaliWear, which offers a Kanega watch on Kickstarter, addresses a senior audience with unique features and style. The goal should be to create a better health experience, which will primarily be achieved via education, engagement, and experience, not by specific devices.

Leveraging Data Halos

In summary, there is a halo of valuable data surrounding patients, professionals, and health systems. The Apple Watch, MacBook, and ResearchKit announcements will contribute new behavioral, ethnographic, and scientific data to that halo, creating new opportunities for viewing and visualizing health data at a glance. Realizing the full potential for wearables in healthcare will require data and privacy education, health literacy, and a human-forward approach to move the experience beyond entertainment to enabling behavioral change, proactive disease management, and health community impact.

Will Reese is Chief Innovation Officer at Cadient, a digital marketing agency that is part of IT and business process consultancy Cognizant.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Health Data Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access