Apple's 2019 in review: Research programs, health records, patents and features

Apple's 2019 in review: Research programs, health records, patents and features

Much like its predecessors, 2019 was yet one more year during which Apple furthered its push into the healthcare market. Although headlined as always by the health tracking features of its consumer wearables, the corporate has also embraced variety of other projects that align its interests with long-time industry players and — within the words of its healthcare leaders — empower and democratize health for the buyer.

And the Cupertino company certainly looks like has the prospect to form an impression. A recent Morgan Stanley report anticipates a $15 billion to $300 billion healthcare opportunity for Apple by 2027, and therefore the company’s most up-to-date quarterly report featured a bevy of digital health project highlights from the lips of CEO Tim Cook.

“As I've said before, my view is there'll be each day within the future that we glance back, and Apple's greatest contribution are going to be to people's health,” he said during the company's October investors call.

From wearables-based research projects to non-public health records, new Watch features to published patents, read on below for a roundup of Apple’s digital health efforts during 2019.

Apple goes big on clinical research 

Apple shook off the frost of winter near the highest of the year with the highly publicized release of its Apple Heart Study leads to March. Launched in 2017 together with Stanford, the scientific research enrolled 419,297 Apple Watch and iPhone owners and ultimately suggested that atrial fibrillations alerts from the Watch app were rare, but fairly inline with paired readings from an ECG patch.

Apple and its collaborators must are pleased with the project, because the company would continue to announce three more Apple Watch health studies headlined by major partners just like the World Health Organization and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. These studies aim to capture participants’ sound exposure, menstrual cycles, pulse and physical activity, and openly enrolled US Apple Watch-owning consumers through a replacement Research app made available in November.

Announcements around these research projects may have made the most important splash in 2019, but they were faraway from the sole studies Apple participated during this year. As early as January, Johnson & Johnson was touting a practical multi-year RCT that's investigating whether irregular rhythm notifications and a custom-built medication adherence app could improve outcomes among older US adults.

The end of the summer also saw one among these pharma collaboration studies bear fruit, with Apple, Eli Lilly and real-world data startup Evidation Health jointly presenting data from a device-based health monitoring feasibility study. This 12-week effort offered proof that common consumer devices are collecting enough data to differentiate between users with or without cognitive decline, the researchers wrote.

The Watch continues 

The Apple Watch wasn’t solely an instrument for clinical research. This year was marked by the continued approval and rollout of the newest Apple smartwatch’s signature ECG feature across variety of latest regions. As of the company’s late-October earnings call, that tally was up to 32 international markets, including India.

Meanwhile, the WatchOS6 firmware update brought with it a couple of latest health tracking features. These updates were focused on providing wearers with more information about their personal activity trends, menstrual cycles and daily noise exposure.

As the device comes into its own as a bonafide health tracking tool, more payers are beginning to note. along side forming the cornerstone of a replacement wellness rewards program with Aetna, the corporate has reportedly been speaking with variety of personal Medicare plans on the advantages a subsidized Apple Watch could bring members. We perhaps saw the opening salvo of this new business opportunity within the fall with startup Devoted Health’s Medicare Advantage plan offering free watches to its members as a benefit.

Year two of Apple Health Records 

After its unveiling last year, Apple spent much of its 2019 ensuring that Apple Health Records was supported by as many industry stakeholders as possible. In June a self-registry for the feature was made available to all or any US health care organizations with compatible EHRs (the list of which was expanded two months later with the mixing of Apple’s tool and a number of other Allscripts EHR platforms).

Meanwhile, all eyes were on whether the Department of Veterans Affairs would begin supporting the private health record tool within the wake of swirling 2018 rumors. Apple and therefore the VA were finally ready to pop the cork in November with the announcement that Apple Health Records had been unrolled to quite 1,200 VA health centers. This allowed patients using iOS access to a transportable aggregated record of their allergies, immunizations, lab results, procedures and other health measures.

Not to be lost altogether of this was Apple’s plans to hitch 19 other industry stakeholders in test driving a replacement health record interoperability initiative called CARIN. This coalition released a draft implementation at the White House Blue Button Developer Conference in July. The guidance spelled out 240 different claims elements which will be mapped onto HL7 FHIR.

Patents outline new options 

It wouldn’t be a replacement civil year without a drag of latest Apple patents ripe for speculation, and 2019 was hardly any different.

Kicking off the year was news of an Apple application that appeared to suggest miniature sensors for poisonous gas could also be a feature of future Apple devices. The application’s diagrams demonstrated a possible application within an Apple watch, and described detection capabilities for ozone, dioxide, nitrogen monoxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide gas, methane and other volatile organic compounds.

Following this were two patents suggesting that the corporate could be performing on chemical smell sensors. The healthcare application of this technology varied, but one patent suggested that it might be wont to analyze sweat particles within the air to deduce a person’s blood glucose levels.

Thanks to the acquisition of small respiratory health company Tueo Health, Apple also acquired worldwide rights to a patent that would fit well into its budding sleep health efforts. Using sensors placed near a sleeping user, this technique would be ready to monitor their rest without the necessity of a sensible device like an iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch.

And the company doesn’t seem content with limiting its ECG tech to Apple Watches alone. A patent published within the fall described a fabric-based piece of clothing that might be ready to measure vital sign, respiration and ECG, then wirelessly communicate with external equipment. While it's unclear what exactly this stretchable band would appear as if on the market, the patent gave samples of potential use cases including a headscarf, hat, undergarments, socks, pants, shorts and belt.

Other odds and ends 

Apple has its toes dipped during a broad sort of health care strategies, based both in devices and services. In July, for example, the corporate began carrying One Drop’s wireless blood sugar monitor was made available purchasable in certain US Apple Stores. Integrated with Apple Health Records, the platform is that the first time since 2012 that the corporate has stocked a diabetes management offering at its brick-and-mortar storefronts.

However, it had been at the beginning of the year news broke that Apple had finally managed to place a longstanding legal dispute with Valencell regarding patent disputes and alleged deceptive trade practices to bed. The case, first filed in early 2016 and settled by both companies in late 2018, centered on the guts rate sensor technology core to the Apple Watch.

Over on the opposite end of the calendar, Apple recently took a stand against vaping apps being offered through the App Store by pulling 181 such offerings off the digital storefront. The apps pulled down were mainly social networks, news, games and hardware companions, consistent with the tech giant. While this is often new effort means a ban on related apps, the app store has always prohibited sales of vaping cartridges.

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