Dissecting the role of Apple Watch in wearable health innovation

Apple Watch

A truly connected healthcare ecosystem will take longer to develop than most predict and it's not yet proven the Apple Watch will be the device to change the mHealth industry, according to David Lee Scher, M.D. However, the health consultant still says digital tech will have a huge impact on healthcare, in an essay for Medscape.

"I would make a case--as I'm sure payers would--that at least short-term feasibility studies demonstrating the effectiveness of the Apple Watch in patient engagement, adherence and retention are needed before reimbursement for the device is considered," Scher writes. "The success of the Apple Watch might help digital health technology companies that make other wearables, such as clothing or eyeglasses, succeed."

Scher added that there are a few aspects of the Watch that make it a valid a mHealth player.

"Part of the excitement of the Apple Watch is the potential development of useful health and medical apps by third-party companies for the device," he says. "This is a win/win situation: Apple gets [hopefully] the best medical apps, and app developers get quick, widespread adoption of their products."

Apple is moving into mHealth wearables at a point where the market is on a strong upward trajectory, enjoying its eighth consecutive quarter of growth, with vendors shipping out 11.4 million products in the first quarter of the year, according to an IDC research report.

Yet for all its tech prowess and capabilities, even Apple has had to address some issues. Shortly after it debuted, some Apple Watch users reported a snafu in Watch OS 1.01 regarding heart rate monitoring, with one user reporting four gaps of data in one hour. Some users, it was reported, weren't getting any readings unless the function was manually triggered.

Overall though, more than a few industry pundits are heralding the Watch as the healthcare innovation of its time, much like Apple's iPhone and iPod products.

"Who would have imagined that we doctors would become so dependent on our smartphones for use in daily life in the office and hospital?" Scher says. "[The Watch] is more convenient than its predecessors and will be most useful for the frequent notifications that now rule our professional lives."

For more information:
- read the Medscape report