One of the biggest changes in Apple iOS 13.6 is something that most people won’t notice.
The update adds significantly to the Health app and the broader HealthKit project, the way Apple is making its way into health systems around the world. iOS 13.6 has a Symptoms section.
The simple title is that it allows you to record the symptoms of COVID-19. Cough, loss of smell and loss of taste are all present. However, what you see when you step back is more indicative of Apple’s aspirations for the Health app.
These “symptoms” are the kind of observations that make up the bulk of your average person’s patient record. Constipation, fatigue, shortness of breath, and sore throat are common complaints reported to a general practitioner or “family doctor”.
The Health app allows you to record 33 types of symptoms, most with a level of severity ranging from “mild” to “severe”.
Health then maps these records on a graph, viewable over a day, week, month or year. It’s an easy to use symptom diary.
Here is the full list available in iOS 13.6:
- Abdominal cramps
- Changes in appetite
- Body and muscle pain
- Breast pain
- Chest tightness or pain
- Stomach pains
- Hot flushes
- Odor loss
- Loss of taste
- Lower back pain
- Mood changes
- Pelvic pain
- Fast, beating or floating heartbeat
- Runny nose
- Shortness of breath
- Jumped heartbeat
- Sleep changes
- Irritated throat
Many healthcare providers already use Health. Apple lists nearly 500 spread across the United States on its website. Health is a clear and easy way to store immunization data, test results and medication lists.
However, the changes in iOS 13.6 bring the Health app closer to a viable end-to-end information store for the patient and the doctor to the point where they are referred to a specialist.
Its Labs Results and Clinical Vitals sections, present in the application before iOS 13.6, already offer a lot of information necessary to support ambulatory activity.
A possible future for Apple’s health services becomes more interesting in the context of a country with a system that is a little less atomized than the United States, like the United Kingdom.
Outside the united states
But would NHS Digital, the arm of NHS IT systems, really work with Apple?
There is already a comparable system in the UK. It’s called Patients Know Best and its integration with NHS ‘own application was announced on July 16.
Patients Know Best (PKB) is a private, for-profit company that has benefited from several rounds of venture capital funding. If it can be integrated into the NHS, why can’t Apple Health and Healthkit be?
Apple’s software could surpass PKB with a single click, and it probably already has. Apple Health is certainly brighter than patients know it better.
There are two immediate problems here, both austere.
The first is data control, supposedly a motivation for NHSx, the digital transformation wing of the national health service, the development of its own COVID-19 application, rather than using the systems developed by Apple and Google. .
Our second problem is just as glaring: Apple Health is only available on Apple devices. And the solution may not be as simple as simply creating a version for Android.
Google also wants to intervene in this area. Yes of course. And it could potentially put in place measures to limit the APIs available to the Apple system, if it were ultimately ported to Android.
Sometimes a future in which the tech giants have even more control over our daily lives seems inevitable and often unpleasant. But, outside of the United States in particular, Health and HealthKit still have a long way to go.