Apple Advances Personal Health by Introducing Secure Sharing and New Insights
Apple today previewed advanced consumer health and wellness insights for users, as well as new tools for supporting loved ones. Building on the current innovative health features of iPhone and Apple Watch, iOS 15 gives users the ability to securely share their data with important people in their life, like a family member or physician, and receive insights into the health trends of their loved ones. Additionally, new tools in iOS 15 can be used to identify, measure, and understand changes in a person’s health data.
“This past year has emphasised the importance of health, and we’re enabling our users to take a more active role in their well-being. We’ve added powerful features that give users the most comprehensive set of insights to better understand their health trends over time,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “Many people around the world are caring for someone, and we want to provide a secure and private way for users to have a trusted partner on their health journey. We’re excited to bring these innovative tools directly into users’ hands.”
With iOS 15, users can choose to securely give a loved one visibility into their health and wellness data, enabling them to have more meaningful conversations and provide support — even from afar — as they follow important alerts and changes over time.
In the Health app, a new Sharing tab lets users privately share their data with a trusted partner or caregiver. Users have full control over which data they share and with whom, whether they’re an ageing parent who shares their activity or heart health data with a family member, a partner who chooses to share their fertility window insights, or a person with Parkinson’s disease who wants to share their mobility data with a physical therapist. For the person receiving this information, shared data is presented with important insights and trends highlighted.
Having meaningful conversations with a doctor about everyday activities during a visit is a key part of managing health, but it can be difficult to remember the details. With user permission, the Health app can keep track of valuable information, helping bridge the gap of what a person experiences between clinic appointments. Now, users in the US can choose to share certain types of health data — like heart rate, detected falls, hours of sleep, or exercise minutes — with their doctor, for more informed conversations. At participating healthcare organisations, a physician can review the Apple Health app data that a user chooses to share directly in the electronic health records system.
The Health app adds trend analysis for 20 types of data — ranging from resting heart rate to sleep to cardio fitness — so users can easily see how a given metric is progressing. A critical part of maintaining personal wellness is tracking changes in health, which can be subtle and easy to miss. For users looking to keep an eye on their data over time, Trends is a new way to intelligently and proactively highlight important changes, and surfaces the information in a way that’s easy to understand.
Users can also keep tabs on goals, like increasing running distance or mindful minutes. For those looking to monitor insights across areas like insulin delivery, trend analysis applies to data from third-party devices connected to the Health app.
With optional notifications, Trends can highlight long-term changes in health, so a user can celebrate progress toward a goal, or discuss with a doctor or care team.
More than 37 million people each year require medical attention as a result of a fall, which can often be a tipping point for more serious conditions and a loss of independence.1 Walking Steadiness on iPhone is an industry first, providing insight into fall risk by capturing important mobility data as users walk with their iPhone. Currently, fall risk is assessed by a care provider through a questionnaire and an in-person evaluation. Walking Steadiness offers the added ability to capture everyday movements and surface classifications within the Health app as OK, Low, or Very Low, allowing users to proactively take action to help reduce their risk of falling.
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.
Privacy is fundamental in the design and development across all of Apple’s health features. Health data is under a user’s control, with granular control over which data types they choose to share and with whom. Data is encrypted when in transit and while at rest on a user’s device when locked behind a passcode, Face ID, or Touch ID. Apple does not have access to this information when a user chooses to share it with a loved one or doctor.
Additional Health and Wellness Updates
- An enhanced labs experience comes to Health Records on iPhone, making it easier for users to review their results. Users can view highlights, pin results that may matter most to them, see whether labs are within range, and, for those in the US, access educational content about common lab tests.
- With watchOS 8, Apple Watch measures respiratory rate — the number of breaths per minute — during sleep. Users can review this information in the Health app and be notified if a meaningful trend has been identified.
- The new Mindfulness app in watchOS 8 includes a refresh of the deep breathing experience, as well as another simple way to stay centred and calm. Breathe sessions give users more opportunities to slow down and focus, and feature a new animation. Users also have access to new Reflect sessions, a way to be more mindful that helps them focus on positive thoughts.
- In iOS 15, users worldwide have an additional option for storing medical records of immunisations and test results directly in the Health app. Now, even if a vaccine provider or medical location doesn’t currently support the Health Records feature, it can allow patients to download verifiable COVID-19 vaccination or test result records from an online browser or QR code, so they can easily access them at any time.