7 Ways Apple’s HealthKit Will Make Marketers’ Jobs Easier

Apple may be pushing the quantified-self movement into the mainstream. After months of rumors, Apple finally announced its new Health app, which will be a part of the new iOS 8 when it is released this fall. The app will provide users with a dashboard of health and fitness data including information on heart rate, calories burned, blood sugar and cholesterol. Users can also use it to keep track of their medications, nutrition, sleep, lab results and more. And it will be compatible with other health and fitness tracking apps and devices (such as Nike+ FuelBand, Withings devices, Fitbit and more) and store everything in one place.

“Apple’s Health app brings with it the promise of a singular, unified standard, which should drive greater consumer usage of wearables and health/wellness applications,” explains Keith Liu, VP, Klick Labs at Klick Health. “This is great news for pharma and med device companies because with standardization comes lower costs of entry and shorter time to market. This will undoubtedly drive the evolution of health apps and devices from being fitness fads to valuable healthcare assets.”

Apple is even helping developers with that evolution. Along with the launch of Health, Apple is also releasing its HealthKit tool to developers that will allow them to create their own apps and tools that can access or share data with Health. And there are already major players within the healthcare space onboard.

The Mayo Clinic plans to launch an app in September that they will integrate with Apple via HealthKit. For instance, say someone takes a blood pressure reading and stores that data on Apple Health. That information will automatically be shared with the Mayo Clinic’s app and they can then either send the patient evidence-based recommendations on how to keep blood pressure within normal range or notify a doctor to reach out to the patient. Epic Systems, a leading hospital software company and provider of EHR platforms, also announced a partnership with Apple’s Health. However, no details have been announced to this point and a representative from the company declined to comment for this article.

“A large part of Apple’s success is driven by the ability to forge lasting partnerships with major players in every space the company enters,” says Kyle Sutton, Senior Digital Strategist at MicroMass Communications. “iTunes was successful because Apple formed partnerships with record labels that held all the cards on [legal] digital music distribution but struggled to navigate online music sales. Health will be successful because Apple collaborated with the FDA to get clarity on regulation, Epic Systems to ensure integration with the largest vendor in the EHR space and Mayo Clinic to guide the process of making the data actionable.”

Apple isn’t the only player trying to make all the right moves to bring health and fitness tracking to the masses. Google isn’t far behind as their own platform for Android devices, Google Fit, is also currently open to developers. So it won’t be long until the two most popular smartphone operating systems have a native health and fitness offering.

So if adoption of these offerings actually does catch on with mainstream audiences what affect will that have on healthcare? What will it mean for pharma and medical device companies? Can pharma and med device marketers use Apple’s HealthKit to develop tools of their own? We asked seven experts from across the industry who each provided their own way in which Apple Health and HealthKit could make the lives of life sciences marketers a little easier.

1. Changing Health Behavior

Kyle Sutton Pan

Pharma’s best opportunity to capitalize on what Health and HealthKit bring to the table is in using the data to create programs that aid in changing health behavior. The current care environment is the perfect storm for sub-optimal outcomes. Patients often need to modify a set of behaviors to effectively manage their condition, but physicians often lack the time and/or coaching skills to provide guidance that sticks. As the producer of treatments, pharma is well-positioned to use data from Health and its partners to craft skill-building solutions that patients need to achieve improved outcomes.

More specifically, the opportunities for meaningful impact are in solutions that help patients connect everyday behaviors to long-term outcomes. These insights are often hidden in seemingly disparate data points. Some relationships are intuitive—connecting calories and physical activity to weight over time is a no-brainer. What’s less apparent is the connection of factors that aren’t commonly top-of-list predictors of health outcomes such as connecting sleep to caloric intake, blood glucose or weight. It’s less about a finding a single optimal combination of metrics and more about participation in a unified platform. HealthKit presents the opportunity for pharma, HCPs and the tech sector to work collaboratively toward the common goal of empowering patients with the information and skills to take smarter, more impactful actions toward their health outcome objectives.

2. A Uniform Framework

Jeff Danley Pan

Apple realizes that today’s (and tomorrow’s) consumer relies on a variety of devices, apps and data to monitor their health. With its Health app and HealthKit platform, Apple has created a masterful framework that allows these various apps and devices to share data. The collective concept represents a digital health strategy that features the key elements of great mHealth apps: Passive data collection, ongoing feedback and impressive integration capabilities combine to open up new opportunities for pharma companies to provide valuable tools and services to consumers and healthcare professionals.

Soon, we will likely see a new generation of apps that offer patient-specific recommendations and prescription information, based on data that flows into HealthKit. Pharma-specific apps will now have the ability to provide valuable, relevant, integrated information and tools to the patient without the added overhead of having to reference multiple applications. Not only can pharma apps now take advantage of data captured from other HealthKit-enabled apps, but today’s pharma apps can also more easily send data—as appropriate—to other applications without much extra effort on pharma’s part.

If HealthKit delivers upon its promise, consumers of the future will come to expect their entire personal health data ecosystem—including pharma tools and data—to be integrated into this one, handy, uniform framework.

Apple’s scale and ubiquity combined with its reputation for ease of use could likely make HealthKit the de facto mHealth platform the industry has been seeking.

3. Improved Outcomes

Prodeep Bose Pan

The fact that pharma has to demonstrate economic value and better overall outcomes in a real-world clinical setting is a reality that almost everyone in pharma understands and marketing and medical departments struggle with. The game-changing nature of connecting life data with health outcomes means that trendsetters like Mayo Clinic, Kaiser Permanente and even the government have begun to connect the dots between treatment, lifestyle, cost and outcomes—with the obvious intent to drive better choices at the payer, physician, hospital and patient level. Pharma has to reorient itself to demonstrating overall economic value and improved real-world outcomes. Apple’s HealthKit changes the game—maybe not today, but soon.

The stated intent of Apple’s HealthKit is to track and share behavior with physicians towards better health management. If Mayo, Epic and other third-party partners actually make this a reality, it offers both an opportunity and a threat for pharma to demonstrate its relevance beyond the compound or device. Pharma’s opportunity lies in proving that these expensive pills and procedures deliver economic value and improve overall outcomes—and in doing so, it has to invest in an engagement model that provides support including lifestyle goals, adherence and compliance tracking, and multidisciplinary care coordination. Outcomes-oriented treatment engagement offers the best hope of coming out on top on the value equation.

4. Increased Access To Patients

Tristen George Pan

The introduction of Apple’s new Health and HealthKit apps offers many exciting opportunities for marketers—the most important of which is access to more patients.

Tracking health data has been gaining momentum for years, but now with the introduction of the native iOS, marketers will be able to move beyond targeting early adopters and digitally savvy users and into the new world of targeting the general patient population—regardless of age, income level or online behaviors. Similar to the initial introduction of Apple’s App Store, this will push the general population into the next level of digital adoption and will change overall behaviors on how patients interact with their devices.

Given time, we will start to see “digitally naïve” audiences change to become “savvy empowered” patients monitoring their own health progress and sharing their progress with physicians.

And since patients will have more access at their fingertips, marketers will have more access to patients. Our ability to offer richer, more advanced experiences? It just moved up several notches.

5. Data Liquidity

Nicole Johnson Pan

Apple is leading the way by tackling one of pharma’s toughest challenges—changing behavior. Using the Health app to help motivate individuals to eat and sleep better, exercise, and take their medicine regularly can be the beginning of a massive shift in health accountability. We’re in the infancy stage of the “quantified self,” and Apple’s move to centralize personal data to facilitate a change in patient behavior is something to truly get excited about.

Pharma can jumpstart adoption of the Health app by evaluating their already in-market mobile apps and allowing developers to leverage HealthKit to unlock the potential for data liquidity between patients, healthcare providers and communities.

Apple’s innovations allow us to take a closer look at patient journeys and real-world data. The Health app also has the potential to enhance access to community support through open data exchanges, providing additional encouragement when patients need it most.

The educated, empowered patient is here to stay, and the Health app will begin influencing a critical mass of iPhone users to share data and engage, ultimately driving better health outcomes. In turn, pharma needs to sharpen its analytic capabilities, looking for insights from all this information to better focus the communication, education and services we provide.

6. Generate Positive PR

Ben Putman Pan

HealthKit has great potential for marketers, and the best use will be to generate positive PR, tailor messages for your audiences and integrate your products into your patients’ digital health life. The rising surge of interest in HealthKit lends itself to high-profile sponsorships from industry. Sponsoring an innovation challenge around a disease state and HealthKit can provide a year’s worth of positive PR while raising awareness and improving the lives of thousands, if not millions. HealthKit lets us customize content based on health information. Don’t think its use is limited to health tracking.

HealthKit is permission based. Apps can request health-related information from another app and it doesn’t need to be stored by the app or sent back to the app developer. That capability lets us build content and experiences for apps that can be more tailored to the patient by their age, gender, height, weight, etc.

A new digital health life is coming, and HealthKit will spawn a new generation of apps aimed at creating a unique health ecosystem for each patient. Companies need to open their device data or product information to developers so they can easily incorporate it into their solutions. For example, I hope to see a developer.[pharmacompany].com for each company that provides easy access to uneditable product label information and support information.

The HealthKit platform will also eliminate the barrier between personal wellness and medical health, which could lead to the creation of some great products. For instance, asthma sufferers can create a map of places that trigger attacks and a nurse can help them plan to reduce attacks. Steps tracked for MS patients can show HCPs how their disease is progressing. The possibilities seem endless. We have yet to see the true potential—but I would bet good money that some budding entrepreneur will show us this fall.

7. New Partners for Going Beyond the Pill

Eric Pilkington Pan

Apple, Google and Samsung are all entering the mHealth market in a BIG way. This serves as proof that the mHealth and wearables industry is very healthy, despite some forecasts and reports that have talked about a decline or slowdown. And with the partnership that was recently announced between Novartis/Alcon and Google’s Project Iris, it’s clear that pharma and device companies now have a new set of partners (and possibly new competition) in their quest to make people healthier while also going “beyond the pill.”

HealthKit of course, represents a marked improvement in fitness and health wearables, which has become completely fragmented, strewing our health information across various apps and silos. It’s a lingua franca of sorts for apps to use that will also integrate with EHR, allows patients to share critical information with their physicians in a secure way, and allows for the better management and guidance of chronic disease and overall wellness.

Integration, passive data collection and iterative feedback combine to open up new opportunities for pharma companies to provide valuable tools and services to patients, care partners and HCPs. We are likely to see a new generation of apps that offer patient-specific recommendations and outputs, based on data that flows from the HealthKit framework. Apps will now have the ability to provide valuable, relevant, integrated information and tools to patients without the added overhead of having to reference multiple applications. Not only can data be curated from other HealthKit-enabled apps, but apps can more easily send data to other applications without additional development efforts or reliance on open APIs. This will be particularly useful as other consumer health platforms become integrated into HealthKit.

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