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Tech Focus: Apple reveals new “HealthKit” app for iOS8

At last week's World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco, Apple made a bold announcement and revealed it was stepping into the medtech sector with a piece of software called HealthKit - a toolkit for iOS8 that allows developers of health and medical devices to build supporting apps on the new operating system. This include general health and fitness options like FitBit and Withings, but also offers a range of possibilities in terms of recording medical history, from medications and appointments to a comprehensive patient overview.

What do we know?

HealthKit, and its associated app named "Health", isn't another data collection system; instead it collates data from third-party apps and arranges them into one simple dashboard. Overall it can collect 60 different types of data, including health, fitness and medical information. It also allows users to create an emergency card, containing information on blood type, medications and allergies.

Perhaps most notably, HealthKit can send information to a user's doctor - so if readings are out of the ordinary, a GP will be able to see exactly where the change has taken place. In the US, Apple has already partnered with The Mayo Clinic and Epic Systems to make sharing with health providers as easy as possible.

What do the experts say?

The main concern with the app so far seems to be its dependence on often misleading data - the new "quantified self" movement which has users tracking their body's data can sometimes be known to read into details too closely as an attempt to self-diagnose where a doctor is better placed to do so. However, it's the element of sharing with doctors that redeems it in this case - every GP visit can be recorded, every statistic looked at and any problems or changes in the body defined and determined.

This also allows patients to carry their medical history with them in the cloud, from hospital to hospital and doctor to doctor if need be. Rather than relying on the paperwork system to process or recalling dates and conditions from memory, patients can travelwith their full record in their pocket. That's a huge boost to the medical community, creating a golden triangle of communication between doctors, technology and patients.

When is it due?

It's thought that HealthKit and Health will be released alongside i0S8, which is due sometime in September 2014. However, developers have already been given the chance to test the new operating system - so further advances in medtech may be upon us before the end of the year.

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