On June 1st, my smart phone was nearly buzzing out of my pocket soon after the conclusion of the opening keynote at Apple’s annual World Wide Developer’s Conference. This year when Apple lifted up the table cloth and gave us all a peek at approaching technology, mobile health care was staring right back at us! Industry watchers have long buzzed about Apple’s impending health strategy. The pivotal milestone now reached is that some elements of this strategy will become real in the upcoming IOS8 release.
Apple’s HealthKit will pull in data from a variety of health devices, making that data available to Apple’s health application (creatively called “Health”) and other solutions as well.
Ideomed® has been bravely and quietly pushing the boundaries of patient mobile health stewardship for health insurers and health systems for a number of years. Our flagship product Abriiz® even has the rather audacious goal to “make daily health management a breeze, for patients and care managers.” The multi-condition Abriiz tool, in the hands of the patient, serves to inspire, remind and motivate, as well as allow quick and convenient tracking of the symptoms, measures and activities that can be a key part of condition management. The patient’s care managers use the Abriiz web-portal to follow patient progress and provide additional incentives and encouragement. The research-backed belief is that improved health outcomes can often occur from improved daily awareness, taking medications as prescribed, accurately recording symptoms, and feeling empowered on one’s health journey.
The early results from several small initiatives across the nation have been encouraging. For example, based on survey findings across three small Abriiz pilots, the number of ER visits for severe asthma users decreased from a collective total of 31 per six months without Abriiz to a collective total of just 2 visits while using Abriiz. While these results hint at health and cost outcome impact, the data is not yet available on a scale large enough to be statistically significant, so Ideomed has been hard at work carrying out a broad nationwide array of Abriiz deployments to further demonstrate the solution’s effectiveness across conditions such as asthma, heart failure, diabetes, HIV, and more.
Abriiz has had some pockets of high visibility in this journey, ranging from our testimony at a US Congressional subcommittee on health care innovation (which was covered by C-Span) to the focus of an Amazon AWS case study on Abriiz’s cloud-based HIPPA approach. Additionally, we have had substantial conversations with many of the nation’s leading healthcare organizations and are partnering with a number of them.
The deluge of incoming calls I received on announcement day came from concerned partners and colleagues who wondered whether I had heard the news, and how competitive Apple’s software was to our Abriiz approach. The jubilant sound in my voice soon put my friends at ease. Although Apple’s full mobile health strategy will unroll over time, HealthKit addresses one of remaining missing links in the ongoing validation, credibility and widespread acceptance of mobile health technology.
An application such as Abriiz carries out a variety of advanced functions to achieve our health stewardship objectives, from providing care manager dashboards, trending graphs, analytics and alerts, to engaging the patient with progressive rewards, gamification incentives, an engagement science based point and report card system, age-group targeted character badges and more. One of our challenges has been extracting the patient’s data – with their permission – from an exploding array of available consumer health devices – so that we can integrate it into our approach. We have already built bridges from our Abriiz application to the Fitbit activity band and scale, we have surfaced MyFitnessPal calorie, protein and carb totals in Abriiz, and more. But the daunting task of integrating hundreds of additional new devices means we have many more bridges to build over the next few years.
There are various ways to accelerate this task, and even companies that specialize in providing device hubs to speed it along. However, Apple’s HealthKit announcement gives us hope that a standard approach to accessing device information will emerge at warp speed, at least on the IOS platform. Abriiz will be able to leverage data (with patient permission) from far more health devices, far more elegantly, at a significantly lower cost of development. The end result, in our view, is good for us, good for Apple, good for health care providers, and good for patients.
We don’t anticipate that Apple has any more interest in providing the very specialized health motivating functions that Abriiz delivers (nor do they want to create the vast library of Abriizling and Cardling game characters embedded in our application). With their move however, they have taken a big step toward making it feel even more natural to track one’s health metrics using mHealth technology, and they have provided us with a potential accelerator to access health information via HealthKit. Both of these are great backdrops to have as we continue to roll out the Abriiz mobile health care manager-patient solution across the care continuum.
The road to proving the impact of any kind of mobile health engagement is a long one. Our series of initiatives, quality studies, and formal clinical trials continues even as we work with an expanding base of health customers. I don’t expect that the Apple approach will revolutionize mobile health overnight, and it will be interesting to see if they ever carry out clinical trials on measuring the positive impact of their health application or hub. But they have taken an important step in moving us all forward on the mobile health journey, and aiding companies like Ideomed that continue to build, prove and refine solutions in the space.