What was once simply a device to count steps and to keep you active, fitness wearables like the Apple Watch and the Fitbit can now do so much more. Whether it’s showing calories burned, active minutes, miles ran, minutes asleep, or letting you know which friend is sending you a text message, both devices have become a staple in our day-to-day lives. The common thread with this functionality is the ability to show and process real-time data to its users. This shift is going to make a large impact on the health and wellness for wearable users.

The Battle of the Wearables

In September 2018, Apple unveiled new features of the Apple Watch that allow is to focus on real-time health data streaming, as it will display electrocardiogram (ECG) heart waveforms for the first time. This is done through new sensors that allow show users if their heart has an irregular rhythm. The Apple Watch will also be able to warn users if it detects their heart is beating abnormally fast or slow during everyday use and can call emergency services if it detects you have suffered a fall and are no longer moving. This new feature created a lot of buzz in the market of real-time data streaming and was even endorsed by the president of the American Heart Association.

Not to be outdone by its top competitor, Fitbit unveiled their own connected healthcare platform, Fitbit Care, which is also complete with FDA-approved heart monitoring services. Its platform will provide coaching and virtual care with the goal of improving the wellness, while also managing and preventing certain diseases.

Trending Healthcare Apps

The global mobile health app market is projected to be valued at $28.32 billion in the year 2018. It’s expected to reach $102.35 billion by 2023, according to Research and Markets. With the introduction of their new health-centered platforms, both the Apple Watch and the Fitbit are unveiling new healthcare apps to truly make the most out of real-time health data. In addition to the Apple Watch being able to dial 911 for a user, there is a wide range of apps designed specifically for both wearables that analyze and organize data. For instance, the app Strava displays data from fitness sessions, including distance traveled and average pace. There is also LifeSum, which tracks what a user is eating and drinking throughout the day, the number of calories consumed, and lets you know of various foods to avoid.

Both the Apple and Fitbit were criticized for the lack of options to track women’s health. Women users were unhappy that Apple presented no options in HealthKit for a period tracker, the tracking app Clue became a must-have for women tracking their period and when they are most likely to become pregnant. In March 2018, Fitbit recognized the need and announced that the app will automatically update with a tracking calendar for its female users where they can also log various symptoms, such as migraines, directly into the details of various of each calendar day. There are also a number of apps that are centered around tracking sleep for the Apple Watch, including Calm, Headspace, and Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock, while all Fitbit models come with this technology automatically.

Potential Pitfalls

With all of these new advancements and breakthroughs into real-time health data streaming, the result could be more calls to emergency services and a potential for a new wave of technology-driven hypochondria. 10 percent of the time an irregular rhythm is falsely diagnosed as atrial fibrillation, which could raise an alarm for the millions of people who are about to own the new Apple Watch. This could send thousands of wrongfully diagnosed people to the doctor, resulting in heightened anxiety and the cost of performing unnecessary tests. “The truth is that preventative health is far more complicated than identifying irregular rhythm from a watch,” said John Mandrola, MD, Cardiac Electrophysiologist at Baptist Health in Louisville, KY.

Another important factor to consider is that In the US, all healthcare mobile apps must be HIPAA compliant, so consumer app solutions don’t meet those security requirements. This gives rise to a new class of secure mobile apps for healthcare professionals. Keeping protected health information (PHI) secure in order to ensure HIPAA compliance can be a difficult task for mobile developers unfamiliar with the Privacy Rule, but it’s vital to gain the trust of the consumer.

There is also the case of how wearable devices will impact insurance policies. John Hancock Financial, one of the largest insurers in the United States, announced in September 2018 that it will stop selling traditional life insurance and will only market policies that record the exercise activities and real-time data from wearables, such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this policy. On one hand, this could be an incentive for users to live a healthier life, while insurers get accurate data on the client’s habits. However, insurers may try and offer less attractive policies to those with data suggesting higher health risks.

The Future of Real-Time Data and Healthcare

Between the rise of wearable devices and improving technology, the potential impact for real-time data in the healthcare industry is limitless. There are already an estimated 50 million Apple Watch users, which doesn’t include those who will be the newest model as their first Apple Watch purchase. When you pair this number to the 25.4 million Fitbit users, the amount of real-time data that is being collected is staggering.

If you have an idea for a health and wellness app that could easily be paired with a wearable device, contact Ennate. As the experts in data streaming, the importance of real-time data, and app development, Ennate can get your idea off the cutting room floor and help turn your vision into a reality. Contact us today to get the process started.