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Posted on 09.25.2014

Apple Watch: Healthcare Game Changer or Just Another Gadget?

Apple recently launched its latest creation, the Apple Watch. Debuting at a news conference on September 9, along with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus, the Apple Watch will be released to the public in early 2015. The smartwatch will be able to collect health data and share it with healthcare providers via Apple’s HealthKit app.

The Apple Watch works as a health and fitness device, picking up pulse rates to measure workout intensity and measuring total distance covered, type of exercise performed and your daily weight. In addition to telling time and tracking health data, it will link with your cell phone and allow you to respond to text messages, emails and phone calls. Other key features include a sketch pad to send to friends, a walkie-talkie, tap feature and even access to your wallet via passbook. 

Based on an article in Modern Healthcare, Apple CEO Tim Cook claims that it will motivate wearers to be more active and, as a result, become healthier. In addition, the publication notes that doctors have a similar outlook as Cook promoting continual wellness in hopes of bringing down rates of office visits by keeping people healthier. The device offers benefits for those with illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, congestive heart failure and diabetes, by monitoring activity levels so that doctors can adjust medicines.

There are some skeptics, however. Will this new device motivate people who have not made an effort in the past to be healthier?  There’s a high price tag of $349, begging the question of whether a lot of people who could benefit from this type of health monitoring can actually afford it.

Another note of importance is the fact that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) likely doesn’t cover the Apple Watch. FierceHealthIT spoke with Deven McGraw, a partner in the healthcare practice of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and longtime member of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's Policy Committee, regarding mobile/wearable’s privacy protection. It is not clear whether or not the Apple would have to be HIPAA compliant. HIPAA only regulates medical data when it is in the hands of, within the control of, or within the purview of a medical provider, a health plan, business associate or other covered entity under the law. If and when data goes into the doctor’s record, it’s covered by HIPAA, but not when it’s on the consumer’s phone.

I think I’ll stick with my FitBit for now and let the innovators and early adopters provide reviews to its success or failure. Do you agree with the health benefits of the Apple Watch, or are you a bit of a skeptic as well?


Katelyn Fish is an Account Executive at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Katelyn’s blogs here. Connect with Katelyn at Katelyn@lovell.com, or @katelynfish.


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