Slow down, Apple; mHealth tech requires validity to drive user adoption

Sometimes, with all that's going on with mobile healthcare technology--from emerging tools and the stream of research reports to product development and deployment--it can be easy for tech experts to become too focused on being first and ahead of the pack rather than producing a viable and validated product.

At this point it's basically a frenzy when it comes to mHealth technology. Everyone seems to be developing a smartwatch, with the latest being Microsoft as it reportedly gears up to launch a wrist band with a heart rate monitor within the next several years.

Everyone wants to cash in on what's clearly going to be a lucrative market. 

But racing too fast can not only backfire on product makers, it can also have serious impact on users, and the user base in this scenario is unique given it's people focused on their personal heath and those dealing with possibly life-threatening health issues. Who wants to be known as the smartwatch maker whose diagnostics result in erroneous information that puts users in the hospital rather than helping them stay out of a hospital?

That's the fear I have, considering what took place this week with Apple's Health app. An issue with the unit of measurement for glucose monitoring for various countries prompted Apple to pull the software for a fix. Users in Australia and the United Kingdom weren't able to enter specific data on blood sugar levels given the countries use different units of measurement from other countries, like the U.S.

Now before the emails start pouring in, I'm not picking on Apple or diminishing its role in mHealth innovation, but on the other hand I expect players like Apple to live up to their leading-edge reputation. I expect such snafus, and would likely forgive such missteps, from start-ups and companies outside of the mHealth industry, mostly because their products don't have an eighth of the following and user fan base of a company such as Apple.

The big issue here is this is not the first time Apple's swung and missed big with mHealth. During one of the tech giant's earliest presentations on impending technology, a demonstration of mHealth tech efforts revealed calculation data and measurement inaccuracy. It didn't become big headline news, but it was enough for many in mHealth to take notice at the time.

Then just last month, when Apple held a huge product launch event heralding it's greatest iPhone products yet, including news and updates on its recently HealthKit platform and apps developments, it was revealed a software bug was the reason Apple wasn't giving out more details on its mHealth hub.

Then comes the news regarding software incompatibility with blood glucose measurements.

Yes, technology stumbles and falls. Every innovation doesn't come without some pain. In many cases, however, stumbles and gut punches don't impact life and death scenarios. But that is the reality in mHealth, and given that mostly everyone is hoping federal regulators stay with the current philosophy of less is more with mHealth oversight and rules, it's critical that mHealth tech makers take the time to double and triple check devices, apps and platforms before releasing them into the public spectrum.

We should expect that level of attention to detail from every player, especially the likes of Apple.

In June, as we noted, Apple's HealthKit was described as a game changer, for mHealth. Let's just make sure it's a positive game changer.

- Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)

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