Health functions dropped from Apple Watch after glitches

The Apple Watch is expected to debut in April--and now without some of its much-anticipated health features, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Apple reportedly had been testing sensors that track stress by measuring the conductivity of skin and an electrocardiogram feature that measures a user's heart rate, but found the technology didn't work properly, according to the article.

The sensors didn't work well on people with hairy arms or dry skin, and the watch underperformed on people who fastened it to their wrists too loosely. Instead, the company decided to go with a more generic pulse-monitoring feature.

It also gained inconsistent results from blood-pressure and blood-oxygen-level tracking technology. And if those results were used to offer health or behavior advice, the watch would require approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to WSJ.

Even though those features were dropped from the initial device, they could appear in a later version if the technology can be developed to meet Apple's standards, the article notes. In addition, a new app providing continuous glucose readings via a diabetes blood sugar monitor is being prepped to work with the Apple Watch when it hits market in just a few months.

The smartwatch was designed to integrate with Apple's HealthKit platform as a means to collect and share data with healthcare providers. Fourteen major hospitals are piloting the HealthKit platform to track patient care and reduce operating costs, and Apple has more than 600 developers integrating HealthKit into health and fitness apps.

Though Apple undoubtedly would like to avoid regulatory headaches as much as possible, it told the FDA in a December 2013 meeting that the IT industry may have a "moral obligation" to "do more" with health sensors and other similar devices.

Privacy poses another issue with the smartwatch, according to Deven McGraw, a partner in the healthcare practice of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and longtime member of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's Policy Committee. She told FierceHealthIT that the data it collects likely would not be covered by HIPAA.

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