Apple Wants Users to Store Their Health Data on Their Devices, But Is It a Good Idea?

Apple recently announced that it would start collecting the data from users’ Apple Watches and iPhones, which includes information on their heart rate, steps taken, and other factors, with the goal of providing comprehensive health information to users. Both praise and concern have been expressed in response to this announcement. Many users worry about storing their health data on their phones as opposed to more secure servers at hospitals or clinics; after all, there have been many cases in which health care data was stolen.

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“Technology can play a role in improving health outcomes, but it has to be done thoughtfully,” said Dr. Sumbul Desai, vice president of Apple’s Health unit and clinical associate professor at Stanford Medical School. “We think there’s an opportunity to encourage people to live a healthier life.”

The upcoming iOS 16 and watchOS 9 releases this fall will offer 17 features that improve health and fitness, including sleep, heart health, women’s health, and mindfulness.

A report entitled Empowering People to Live a Healthier Day is a snapshot of how the tech giant’s recent health innovations have benefitted millions of users worldwide.

Apple recently released a special health report that outlines how the Apple Watch and iPhone bridge the gap between users and their health information.

What is the new Apple report about?

As iOS 16 and watchOS 9 upgrades arrive in the fall, Apple’s expanded health and fitness features, including sleep tips, mindfulness practices, and heart rate and fitness monitoring, will become available in more than 200 countries.

Dr. Sumbul Desai said, “All of our health and fitness features, whether it’s the Health app or our most recent features like sleep stages, medications & AFib tools, are founded on the belief that access to one’s health information with actionable insights will enable people to take an active role in their health,” adding that Apple’s tech provides users with the opportunity to stay in the know about their health and take action towards better health.

Users can make better health choices if they have a complete picture of their health, according to the new Apple report. It was reported that some users described Apple’s health technology as life-changing and even life-saving.

Privacy and Health Data

Apple reports that users can now store 150 different kinds of health data in the Health app on their Apple Watch, iPhones, and connected third-party apps and devices. Additionally, users can store their health records data from medical institutions located in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, and decide whether or not to share their data with loved ones. It is true that 150 (or more) types of health data constitute a large amount of sensitive information.

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A report concluded that the availability of information facilitates “the breaking down of barriers” between users and their health information. Apple representatives stated during a press conference on Tuesday that its health technology strengthens patient-physician relationships.

“Privacy has to be the core at the core of everything we do,” Desai stated, adding “Our dedication to privacy is something that comes from a belief that people should expect the same confidentiality for their technology as they do from their doctor”.

According to Apple, all user data, particularly health data, is protected and secure and is never divulged to a third party. For example, when an iPhone is locked and can only be accessed via touch or face ID, this means that all the data of the user is safe and encrypted.

Is it a good idea to store health records on your device?

As a result of the Health app’s Health Records tool, Desai said, individuals can have more in-depth conversations with their doctors, as well as doctors can better understand some of the factors that play a role in their overall health.

A board-certified cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, told Healthline that it may be helpful for patients and doctors to have access to health information that can at times be difficult to obtain.

With the Health Records tool, patients can access their medical records at more than 800 medical institutions across more than 12,000 locations. According to Apple, this allows users to view their medical records from multiple health institutions within the Health app.

Anthony Capone, president of DocGo and a leading expert on healthcare and technology, says there is still the possibility of a breach from hackers.“The key is to make the cost of breaching data more expensive than the value of that data,”.

He added,“However, it is important to be informed & ask your provider about the kind of software they have in place. If they are using ISO 27001 or SOC 2, it will be more difficult to breach.”

“When doctors have access to as much information as possible, they are better equipped to make decisions about your care,” he said.

It’s best to exercise caution, Capone said, when it comes to sharing your stored health data with your doctor.

Health Data Storage: Pros and Cons

“A narrowly focused RPM device, the Apple Watch, can monitor certain vital signs, including heart rate. “Capone said.

“Today, one of the largest and fastest-growing segments within the healthcare technology space is remote patient monitoring (RPM), which leverages technology to monitor medical data from patients for provider assessment,”

Dr Tadwalkar says one of the most common health data points that his patients share in his practice is heart rate and rhythm patterns. He said he has gained tremendous benefit from patients who monitor, store, and share their health data with their doctors.“The biggest benefit is obviously that there’s more information because it gives us a peek at what an individual’s health is like outside of the healthcare setting,” he added.

Even so, not every doctor may want or need to process that much patient information. Here are the pros and cons of storing health information on your device
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Pros:

-Your doctor and you could gain a better understanding of your overall health by tracking your health and storing the data.

-Tadwalkar explained that there’s often a disconnect between what physicians see in the office and what patients experience at home. For example, a person’s heart rate may be lower at home than in the doctor’s office.

-Makes you more proactive about your health. To achieve optimal results, Tadwalkar explained, many people will feel they must better invest in their health. People may benefit from monitoring their health and fitness outside of their biannual or annual doctor’s visits in order to take charge of their health on a regular basis.

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-According to Apple’s new report, its health monitoring features have saved the lives of some users.

-The Apple Watch may notify a person to call for help if they fall and have a significant fall. “In my opinion, this is the true value of these technologies. When it’s prescribed to the right person, it can be immensely helpful.”

cons:

-In Tadwalkar’s opinion, a large amount of personal health data does not necessarily mean that it will provide any conclusive evidence about how you should take care of your health. “In reality, it may have little to do with what we might be treating them for,” he said.

-An abundance of personal health data at your disposal could be anxiety-inducing, particularly for those with mental health conditions.

Collaboration between Apple and the medical community

Furthermore, the new report explains how Apple’s health technology has been used in medical research over the past few years.

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The Apple ResearchKit framework helps researchers recruit participants from Apple Watch and iPhone users in the U.S. (participants can choose to share health information to support scientific research or not).

Medical researchers can use data from Apple’s well-known Apple Heart Study, a large-scale clinical study funded by Apple, to guide some of Apple’s health features. Desai had the opportunity to work with the medical community to better understand the impact of irregular heart rhythm notifications through the peer-reviewed study.

“One of our greatest privileges at Apple is that people carry our devices around with them every day, so we feel this responsibility, as well as an opportunity, to gather scientifically validated actionable health insights through their devices to really enable that learning,” Desai stated.

In collaboration with medical organizations such as the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the American Heart Association, the World Health Organization, and others, Apple has conducted studies on:

Apple Women’s Health Study
Apple Heart and Movement StudyTrusted Source
Apple Hearing Study
Preliminary findings from these studies appear in the new report.

Through its technology, Apple wants to make health an everyday practice.

However, not everyone needs to track and store their health data in order to live a healthy lifestyle.

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