Since its invention, the wristwatch has been used to time a pregnant mother's contractions. Now Apple is using its high-tech smartwatch to instantly connect the mother-to-be to her doctor.
The Sense4Baby app, adapted for the new Apple Watch OS2 through a partnership with AirStrip, was the healthcare highlight of Wednesday's big Apple reveal. One of some 10,000 apps now available through the Apple App Store for the watch (by comparison, Android has some 4,000 apps), the connection marks a further evolution of the smartwatch as a clinical tool.
"We think the power and potential of Watch OS2 is unlimited," said Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of operations.
That OS2 was unveiled via a healthcare test case shouldn't come as a surprise. Healthcare providers and mHealth companies jumped on the first iteration of the Apple Watch this past spring with a number of pilots and test applications, most focused around communications and data retrieval and viewing. With this update, Apple is looking to separate from the growing smartwatch market by fine-tuning those applications that appeal not only tom consumers, but to the enterprise market. And healthcare leads that pack.
That potential was demonstrated onstage by Cameron Powell, co-founder of San Antonio-based AirStrip, a longtime player in the mHealth landscape. Powell pointed out that clinicians can use the newly updated Apple Watch (the update will be available by Sept. 16) to make rounds, view schedules, communicate with care team members and even view lab results.
"I actually can travel to see what's next," he said. "If a nurse sends me a message, I can … immediately see all this relevant data. … Here I can send a HIPAA-compliant secure message to a member of the patient's care team."
Powell then highlighted the Sense4Baby app, which AirStrip acquired in early 2014. The Sense4Baby platform turns the smartphone into a fetal monitoring tool for expectant mothers, he pointed out, enabling the mother to look at and hear her baby's heartbeat, then send all that information in real-time to her doctor.
That can now be done through the Apple Watch.
"I can see the baby's heart rate and the mother's contractions," Powell noted. "I can differentiate between the mother's heart rate and the baby's heart rate, which has been a problem for years in home monitoring."