The Health App’s Hidden Potential

It’s interesting how much information an inanimate object can know about your body just by carrying it around in your pocket.

Have you ever looked at the Health app on your iPhone? It’s honestly packed full of data.

Since Apple released Health with iOS 8 back in 2014 almost 5 years ago now, your iPhone has slowly obtained all kinds of different information that it automatically tracks about you and how you move. Such as:

  • Steps taken

If you have an Apple Watch, it’ll automatically track several interesting things regarding your heart rate as well.

But in addition to the stuff it tracks automatically, you can also input your own information the phone doesn’t have the ability to automatically track such as:

  • Nutrition information

As of right now, there’s not much that’s really being done with this data. It just kind of sits there in an app on your phone in chart form not being used for much of anything really.

It’s just data, but I want it to be more.

Imagine if the Health app could be more than what it is today? Here are a few ways Apple could make this stuff more useful and actually improve people’s lives by intelligently analyzing our health data.

Tell me how to be healthier

What if you could go to a new section in the app that would offer unique tips for you based on your lifestyle? It knows exactly what workouts I’m doing when, so if I’m doing way more cardio workouts than strength workouts, maybe it could urge you to diversify your routine?

The iPhone has an elevation tracker built in so it knows that every day when I get home from work, I take the elevator up to my apartment, what if it sent me a notification to take the stairs once in a while?

In the future, I’d love to see them take the nutrition aspect of Health to the next level. If it was easier for me to track what I’m eating, and how much, it could learn what I like and even recommend recipes that include ingredients that house nutrients I’m not getting enough of.

Sidenote: Why is Apple doing this?

It’s a way for them to expand into new markets. Elderly people and lower income people typically don’t buy as much Apple products, but those markets are also more likely to become sick. If Apple makes the best consumer health devices and services, it’s a surefire way for them expand and lock in new customers to their ecosystem.

Health really is a key part of Apple’s future.

It’s worth mentioning that yes, this is just the beginning. This stuff has only been around for a few years, and it’s already gathering all this data about us. I do believe that it’s going to be getting better and better. It just feels like it’s taking longer because compared to what they do in consumer electronics, media, photography, and communications, healthcare just has way more regulation, and it just takes longer to get new products approved.

But they’re getting there, Apple already literally is a medical device manufacturer with the Apple Watch, which has recently gained new ECG (Electrocardiography) functionality.

Apple does have a leg up on competitors from the health and medical industry. Their main advantage is that unlike a company that only works in healthcare, Apple has lots of ways that they make money other than healthcare, so they can afford to wait the long timelines needed for their products to get approved and regulated properly. Other companies wouldn’t be able stick around as long because they wouldn’t be able to afford it.

We’re entering a new patient-centric era for healthcare. People know and care more about their healthcare now than ever before, because of technology. And any healthcare company that can’t provide a pleasing user experience will be unable to compete, leading to tech companies disrupting yet another industry.

That sounds sad, but it’s actually going to be a good thing, because more people by and large will have the power to use their health data to make better decisions, leading to longer, happier, and healthier lives. I just can’t wait till Apple can get it together and use the processors in our phones to do what they do best and be a bit more proactive with this kind of stuff, rather than just hoarding data in an app that hardly anyone ever looks at.

This article was originally sent to subscribers of my newsletter, Something Else. If you’re interested, please sign up here.

Designer, writer, and illustrator from Vancouver. → garycolwell.net

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