Apple Announces New Feature to Help Doctors Monitor, Care for Aging Population

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) is rolling out a new remote monitoring feature designed to help doctors care for the aging population. 

The capability allows the Apple watch and iPhone to track mobility metrics such as low-range cardio, walking speed, six-minute walk distance and step length, among other metrics. The new features — designed to give doctors valuable health data, especially for seniors — will be available this fall.

“The goal isn’t just to see how you walked in six minutes,” Dr. Paul Friedman, a professor of medicine and chair of the department of cardiovascular medicine at Mayo Clinic, told CNBC. “But to see how you compared to others your age and sex — and to look at that as an overall marker of health.”

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Metrics like six-minute walk distance can be valuable when measuring patients’ heart health, helping doctors keep tabs on recovery from afar. Additionally, that feature and others can more generally help physicians keep track of potential declines in seniors’ physical capabilities.

Such regression can indicate a looming medical event.

One medical device company — Zimmer Biomet — is already leveraging that information. The musculoskeletal healthcare company is using the data in a patient care and management service it’s working on called mymobility, which is designed to help doctors assess their patients’ recovery between visits.

Apple has called its new mobility metrics “validated” because it internally compares them to the gold standard for measurement, according to CNBC.

This isn’t the first time Apple has ventured into the senior health care space. In recent years, it has continued to inch its way into health care, positioning itself as a potentially important player in the home-based care world.

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For example, late last year, Apple announced new electrocardiogram (ECG) capabilities, which can be used to collect heart rhythm data, an asset for seniors struggling with known or unknown heart health issues.

“We are confident in the ability of these features to help users have more informed conversations with their physicians,” Sumbul Desai, Apple’s vice president of Health, said in a statement. “With the ECG app and irregular rhythm notification feature, customers can now better understand aspects of their heart health in a more meaningful way.”

While that’s just one example of the innovative moves Apple is making in the remote monitoring space, some critics say the company has yet to realize its full potential. That includes the new mobility monitoring features coming this fall.  

″Very few physicians use walking speed or stair ascent speed in everyday practice and can easily assess them if truly needed,” Christopher Kelly, a cardiologist in Raleigh at North Carolina Heart and Vascular, told CNBC. “We need more creative innovation from Apple that really offers medical value.”

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