The Promise of HealthKit

I was listening to the most recent episode of MacBreak Weekly and Andy Ihnatko said something interesting while they were discussing some of the upcoming changes to HealthKit. He talked about how healthcare providers could eventually look at shared activity data to detect when someone wasn't feeling well. Normally, I might have just nodded and moved on, but I was rather unwell this past weekend, so it stuck with me. I had totally overlooked that use case for Fitbit-esque activity data.

I've had my Fitbit for just over a year now, and lately I've managed to get my wife more on board with the Fitbit stuff as well. Even with me picking up going to the gym for a run, she still smokes me on steps thanks to her job, and it's fun to compare numbers at the end of the day. So when I got sick this weekend, one of my thoughts was "oh man, I'm going to fall way behind on the weekly step count." Which is silly, but hearing Ihnatko's comment got me thinking.

Two days after my daily step count dropped almost 5000 steps per day, I was at the doctor. Now, I don't get sick often enough to have a "usual provider" or anything, but let's say I did. If a doctor opted into the HealthKit program, they could have a heads up that I'm feeling a little under the weather, and for how long as soon as I walk through the door. If I had a device that was taking heart rates, like the Apple Watch is rumored to, that's even more info for the doctor to work with. My doctor this weekend was glad I took good notes on my fever over the weekend, it let her better diagnose me. Continuous data like that might not always be useful, but more data is rarely a bad thing.


Of course, the privacy bit still bothers me slightly. While Apple is quick to point out that you're in close control of your data, it's the sharing part that always gets a little wobbly. We've already seen companies that claimed to be looking to make people more healthy start selling off their customers' data. 23andMe jumps to mind, and I'm sure that there will be others like it.

But nonetheless, it's an interesting idea that was made just a little more personal for me this weekend. Now, if only Fitbit would get their act together and integrate with HealthKit...