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An Apple a Day…

Are apps the future of healthcare services? Apple takes early lead in the race to help doctors monitor patient’s health.Smartphones might be turning us into a generation of content consuming zombies but it seems mobile tech has some more positive side effects as well. In the US a number of top hospitals have confirmed to Reuters that they’ve launched a pilot progam to test out Apple’s Health Kit service, or if they haven’t already are planning to.

Health Kit is a service that acts as a central location for all data collected by participating health apps, which can then be shared with each other or fed to Apple’s new Health app. The Health app and the Health Kit API promise to start a medical revolution by keeping track of things like a user’s heart rate, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. The app allows users to create an emergency card containing important medical information and control how much of their data is stored with Health Kit.

Information can be gathered from exercise apps, wi-fi connected scales and, when it’s released, the Apple Watch.Due to be released in April the smartwatch is expected to increase the variety of data that can be captured.

Ultimately doctors hope the technology can be used as an early warning system for potential medical problems, allowing them to treat patients before the condition becomes too serious. No word yet though on whether Siri is going to be telling you when you need to lose weight.

Apple isn’t the only one interested in the health of its mobile users and Google has launched a similar service, Google Fit, but currently it looks like Android’s rival is the one favoured by medical professionals. That’s now though and eventually experts believe there will be a clash between the two companies when there’s an inevitable call to standardise how data is gathered and shared. It’s estimated that by 2018 70 percent of healthcare organisations worldwide will have invested in mobile health tech.

Interestingly Google has already tried its hand at a similar health service to Apple’s, with a similar name – Google Health, that would serve as central location for user’s health records. The scheme ran between 2008 and 2011 before it closed. However now the mobile market is more mature, and the potential of wearable tech is increasing, it could be the right time for us to surrender our vital signs to the two mobile giants. Google Fit is also more focussed on data collection for fitness tracking than simply being a hacker’s honey pot of personal information.

The outlook is positive for ways in which smartphones will help users to keep fit and healthy, but there are some obvious hurdles that will have to be overcome, namely security. Such problems are going to take time to work out and in the meantime Google is going to have plenty of time to catch up with Apple.

Apple’s Health Kit API is available now for developers to start coding their own apps for the next health revolution.