Building on its efforts to allow people to manage their health records from their phone, Apple is adding a feature that would let people share health data with trusted contacts. For example, users could share heart rate trends from their Apple Watch with a family member or their doctor.
It’s one of several new health features the company announced at its Worldwide Developer Conference on Monday. Apple said it is working with several electronic health record systems, including Cerner, Allscripts and Athenahealth, so that users’ shared health data will appear directly in their health record.
With their permission, a person’s doctor could review trends in their sleep or exercise, notifications about high heart rate, or if a fall had been detected. These wouldn’t serve as real-time emergency alerts (Apple has a separate alert feature for falls), but could be a springboard for conversations about a person’s health.
If users do choose to share certain health metrics, it’s encrypted both on their device and in transit, Apple said in a press release. Before they share it, they’re able to view a summary of everything they’ve chosen to share and how it will look on the other person’s device.
“This past year has emphasized the importance of health, and we’re enabling our users to take a more active role in their well-being. We’ve added powerful features that give users the most comprehensive set of insights to better understand their health trends over time,” Apple COO Jeff Williams said in a news release. “Many people around the world are caring for someone, and we want to provide a secure and private way for users to have a trusted partner on their health journey.”
It’s part of a broader push by Apple — and several other companies — to allow users to have a personal health record where they can manage all of their data in one place. Since it rolled out its initial health record tool in 2018, Apple has continued to add more features.
For example, it recently added an update to help people better understand their lab results, such as allowing them to see if their numbers are within range and get information about common lab tests.
Apple also added a new walking steadiness feature to measure a person’s balance, stability and coordination, which can be factors in their fall risk. It uses information from the iPhone’s motion sensors to measure a person’s step length and timing to assess their steadiness. Apple said the feature was developed using data from the Apple Heart and Movement Study, which enrolled roughly 1,000 participants.
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