Serious questions about Apple’s HealthKit on iOS 8: Will doctors find it useful?

Since Apple's announcement of HealthKit at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, companies like Jawbone, MyFitnessPal and Carrot Fit have been working to develop HealthKit-compatible apps for their devices.

Theoretically, HealthKit can gather information such as sleep patterns, heart rates, miles walked, calories consumed and other data from an array of different devices and aggregate it all in one place. All that data is supposed to be used to help a person monitor their physical wellbeing, and Apple has also said that users can even share that data with their doctors if they wish.

The questions is – can a doctor actually use any of that data?

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I don't know about your healthcare provider but my doctor can barely access her own network to bring up my medical records, and most of the time she relies on other doctors to analyse test results. I don't know if she would even know what to do with a month's worth of sleep pattern data.

Would any of this information be of real value to a doctor?

Sure there are instances when a doctor might find something like variations in blood sugar or blood pressure or cholesterol levels to be valuable, but no one has talked about integrating devices that can measure these things into HealthKit except in a few very specific doctor-supervised tests.

Apple has talked about partnerships with the Mayo Clinic, John Hopkins, Nike, Allscripts Healthcare Solutions and others, and they have announced that HealthKit will be tested at Duke University, where it will be used to track several indicators in heart and cancer patients. Stanford University will also use the platform to follow blood sugar levels in children. The testing will allow doctors to analyse and respond to patients' vitals in real time. But those are special situations and I doubt they will be using off-the-shelf Carrot Fit devices or Nike sneakers.

Now maybe if a person has sleep apnoea or a snoring problem then sleep pattern data might help a doctor pin down a cause, but sleep disorders also require specialised monitoring equipment that is much more sophisticated than a Jawbone.

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And finally even if I wanted to share my HealthKit data with my doctor how would I send it to her? Can I email it to her? Do I have to bring in a printout? Will she need to have an iPad or Mac to read it?

Maybe Apple has been working on some sort of HealthKit/doctor interface but I think it is going to be a while before I get a call from my doctor and she says: "I've been going over your HealthKit data from the past few months and I think you might have a blood disorder. I'd like you to come in for some additional tests."

But as they say in the commercials, "I'm not a real doctor, I just play one on TV", so maybe tracking heart rates or sleep patterns really would be valuable to doctors. And maybe collecting all this data over an extended period of time will bring new insights about our health that we didn't even know about.