Rumor: S Health update will add American Well, WebMD integration

By Jonah Comstock
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Samsung news site SamMobile is reporting that a new version of Samsung's S Health app is in the works, and that it will add doctor's visits, telemedicine, and symptom checker features through partnerships with American Well and WebMD.

SamMobile expects the update to launch with the launch of the Galaxy S8 in late February. The site said it's a "deep integration" which will allow users to search symptoms and diseases and make doctor's appointments through WebMD, engage in video visits through an AmWell integration, and store information from appointments including symptoms, photos, or prescriptions. The report doesn't mention whether these features will be available in all countries.

The current version of S Health is mostly a wellness play, with a fitness tracker, features for building healthy habits, and an engine for launching competitions with friends. It also includes health education content. An SDK allows developers to send information into S Health, similar to how Apple HealthKit works for iOS devices.

Over the years Samsung has tried various times to do much more with the app, though not always in all countries where it exists. Samsung's S Health app originally launched for Galaxy S III users in the UK in the summer of 2012. At the time, it received data from Lifescan’s OneTouch UltraMini/UltraEasy Blood Glucose Meter via a USB connection. It also worked with Omron’s blood pressure monitors and one of its body composition scales via Bluetooth, and similar devices from A&D.

That release never found its way to the US, possibly because of FDA clearance concerns. S Health finally launched in the US with the Galaxy S4, but rather than connecting to third party medical devices, it relied on manual entry and purported to connect to three devices from Samsung: a weight scale, a heart rate strap, and a wrist-worn activity tracker. Those devices also never launched in the US. The company also launched a gamified version of S Health called S Health Buddy in Korea.

Samsung received an FDA clearance for S Health in 2014 but never really added any features that would have necessitated the clearance (it did add features letting users track their heart rate with the phone camera). In an interview at the end of 2014, Samsung Chief Medical Officer David Rhew explained the clearance by telling MobiHealthNews that S Health, which began as a consumer fitness application, was increasingly moving into the chronic disease and medical side. The company planned to make S Health work on the enterprise side, with hospitals and physicians, and was hoping that the open developer platform will promote those innovations as well as those that are consumer focused. 

"At the core, it’s still about fitness and health and general wellbeing, but at the same time we’re exploring how we can apply this for patients that may have chronic diseases, or may be those that perhaps we need to provide other types of devices and applications that connect with the S Health application," he said at the time. "We are trying to find ways to build on it. You have to start somewhere and we started with fitness. We’re finding that the opportunities go beyond that."