This fall, Apple is set to release a new Health app for the iPhone and a new health care API for developers, HealthKit, designed to integrate data from Fitbits, Jawbone Ups, FuelBands and other fitness tracking devices. Health and HealthKit are part of a partnership, over two years in the making, with the prestigious Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic, which serves 1,165,000 patients every year.
The new Health app and related API were created with the assistance of medical IT giant Epic Systems. It’s an audacious attempt to put iPhones front and center in the growing quantified self health movement—one in which Apple's archrival Samsung is also trying to compete.
John Wald, medical director of marketing and public affairs for the Mayo Clinic, told Fast Company that the new Apple Health app and the related HealthKit API were designed, with the Clinic’s aid, as a sort of central repository for personal health information. Apart from integrating information from devices like Fitbit, HealthKit will also allow users to input information (either manually or through third-party devices) like their glucose level and heart rate.
The Mayo Clinic hopes to be a big player among the new fitness and health apps that layer on top of Apple’s Health platform. This fall, Mayo will redesign their primary iPhone app to be a consumer-facing product. Any Apple owner will be able to log in and "seek out information through other platforms which currently exist, and get health and medical information. Down the road if they need to find health care, they can build a relationship with the Mayo Clinic," Wald added. In recent years, the Clinic has been building their brand to encompass a variety of consumer-facing tech initiatives, including expansion into the concierge medicine market. They launched a tech accelerator near their Rochester campus in 2013 and have also developed a series of Mayo-specific iPhone and iPad applications with the assistance of Apple, who featured them as a case study. Apple's new API plays a major role in these future plans for the Mayo Clinic; as described at the WWDC conference, HealthKit appears to allow patients' medical information to be shared among a whole app ecosystem.
The Mayo Clinic has used Macintosh computers and Apple mobile devices for patient care and test results over the past few years, and their bedside hardware relationship with Apple is what led to the collaboration on Apple Health. "Apple is interested in our patient applications because our position allows us to interact with patients. Our current patient app allows patients to see and view their existing lab and radiology data. It also enhances our ability to interact with patients day to day so they don’t have to go directly to providers," Wald added.
Apple is looking for ways to make the iPhone indispensable for anyone interested in monitoring their health, and the Mayo Clinic is looking to expand their brand as a blue-chip provider of medical advice to a clientele that may well never visit their facilities. Both companies are titans of their respective fields who have a vested interest in collaborating and finding what products the market is interested in.