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How an iPhone 6 App Puts a Health Coach in Your Pocket

by IEEE SpectrumSeptember 17, 2014

Photo: Matthew Leete/Getty Images


With the launch of Apple’s new iPhone 6 and the announcement of the forthcoming Apple Watch, the company signaled its intention to play a major role in how we manage our health. Apple has presented the watch as a fancy fitness tracker and has plugged the iPhone’s Health app, which serves as a dashboard for all the user’s health and fitness data. The company also created the HealthKit API to allow developers to build apps that share data with the phone’s health app. 

But all the buzz hasn’t answered the real questions: What will consumers do with all that data? What will iPhone-enabled health care look like?

It might look a lot like the forthcoming app RevUp, from the San Diego startup MD Revolution. The company’s founder, cardiologist Samir Damani, told Spectrum that the app has the potential to really change people’s behavior because it combines the data with personalized coaching. “The data is only as good as what you do with it,” he says.

RevUp will work with the iPhone’s Health app, which pools data from whatever trackers or at-home health devices the customer has synched with it: pedometers, heart rate trackers, blood pressure monitors, and so forth. Based on that data, each RevUp user will receive automated health coaching messages, as well as feedback from a fitness coach, a nutritionist, and a nurse practitioner. Damani says the company has spent three years developing a “predictive engine” that correlates data with health outcomes. “Our platform is geared toward chronic illness prevention and reversal,” he says.  

 

Next year, the company aims to add genetic data to the mix. MD Revolution is working with a genomics company to provide users with partial genome scans, and will add information about users’ genetic variants and possible health vulnerabilities to RevUp. It’s unclear how helpful such data will be, however, since medical science is still struggling to understand the role that our genes play in our health.   

The intended customers for RevUp are health care systems that will sign up their patients, and corporations that will use the app in wellness programs for employees. It seems possible, though, that such organizations could get all the health data and management functions they need directly from the iPhone’s Health App. It remains to be seen whether RevUp’s coaching features will entice institutional customers. 

The company has submitted the app to Apple for approval, but it’s also developing an Android version. It’s probably a good idea to cover one’s bets in this area, since Google and Samsung have both announced platforms that compete directly with Apple’s HealthKit. Google Fit offers developers a way to collect and use data from a variety of monitoring devices. Samsung created the SAMI platform to do the same, and is also coming out with a biometric-tracking watch called SimBand. May the best tech giant win! 

 

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IEEE Spectrum
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