HealthKit might not get as much attention as, say, Apple Watch, but it could end up being more important to Apple’s bottom line in the future. According to a new report in Reuters, the healthcare establishment and hospitals have already started to incorporate HealthKit into their healthcare services: 14 of the 23 hospitals Reuters got in touch with said they had already started pilot programs with HealthKit, or were planning to start one.
The HealthKit service is preinstalled on all iPhones running iOS 8, and essentially works as a data repository. Information from step trackers, connected scales, smart blood pressure monitors and other medical gadgets can be fed into HealthKit. Apple’s software then organizes that data and displays it in a useful way on an iOS device in the Health app. According to Reuters, that information can, with the patient’s permission, be exported directly into the kinds of electronic medical records that doctors use. If the FDA was to decide to regulate HealthKit as a medical device, something that Apple has worried about, it would likely be the export-to-doctors function that would come under scrutiny.
One story in the report surrounds a New Orleans hospital which is treating high-risk patients with blood pressure issues by remotely monitoring them and providing doctors with regular readings automatically sent through HealthKit.
As Reuters points out, the American healthcare market is worth over $3 trillion per year, a figure big enough to pique Apple’s interest despite the fact it registered $18 billion in profit last quarter. As America gets older, if the iPhone (or the Apple Watch) becomes the device your doctor says works best with your health regimen, that’s a powerful reason for a consumer to choose an Apple device. But Apple doesn’t have the mobile healthcare market to itself: Google has developed similar software, Google Fit, and Samsung is taking health seriously, too. In the next few years, these three major smartphone companies will jockey to get their software into hospitals and doctors’ hands.