Apple Meets With FDA, Develops Core mHealth App For iOS 8.

7-22-2013 11-02-58 PM

Apple’s new iOS 8 operating system will reportedly include a new health app that captures a wide variety of health metrics and supports a variety of health goals, according to a report from 9to5Mac. The app, called Healthbook, will be pre-installed on any iPhone 6s, or will be installed during the iOS 8 update for existing users. The expected iOS 8 release date is late summer or early fall.

According to 9to5Mac, Healthbook will compete with a number of current mHealth app market segments. The app will be able to count steps taken, and resulting calories burned which means that it will compete with other third party app-based activity trackers like Moves. The app will also let users track weight fluctuation over time, and will be optimized to support weight loss goals.

In addition to activity and calories, the Healthbook app will let users enter medication schedules and will then trigger reminders when certain medications are due. This is a mobile app market segment currently led by MangoHealth, a San Francisco-based startup founded in 2012 to improve medication adherence. Industry experts call poor medication adherence a $300 billion-a-year problem for the US.

Beyond fitness and medication adherence, the new app will reportedly be able to track blood pressure, hydration levels, heart rate, and “potentially several other blood-related data points, such as glucose levels.” The hardware in current model iPhones is not capable of capturing any of these data points, so if the app is going to passively capture this information, then it means one of two things: 1) the iPhone 6 will get some additional hardware dedicated to health metrics, or 2) iOS 8 and Healthbook is being designed to pair with the yet-to-be-unveiled iWatch, which has long been rumored to contain a multitude of health sensors.

Adding fuel to the rumors that Apple may be preparing to add serious mobile health solutions to its ecosystem, either in a smartphone or in the iWatch, is the recent FDA meeting between Apple SVP of operations Jeff Williams, and VP of software technology Michael O’Reilly. No details were given on what was discussed during the meeting, but the FDA public calendar listed the meeting topic as “mobile medical applications,” and the FDA’s Bakul Patel, who drafted the final mobile medical app guidelines, was in attendance.

Apple is playing catch up to Samsung when it comes to embracing mHealth functionality and incorporating it into a core mobile operating system. Samsung’s S-Health app tracks activity, calories burned, and through a food journal tracks calories consumed. S-Health has also been designed to capture and import additional data from activity trackers, making it a centralized fitness hub on a users smartphone.

While the iPhone 5S received positive reviews and strong sales in the market, Apple’s most recent core app introductions have done far worse. With the release of iOS 6 came Apple Maps, a replacement to Google Maps that received widespread negative press for having inaccurate data and a poor user interface. In Alaska, an airport had to tighten security around their tarmac because Apple Maps kept directing users to drive on its runway. iOS 6 also brought Passport, a digital ticket and rewards card holder that has seen far less usage than Apple had hoped.

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