Google Fit update brings sleep tracking, iOS support; Connected Juul records user data, limits underage use and more digital health news briefs

Also: Validation data on Osso VR's surgical training tool; Apple seeking health record development experts.
By Dave Muoio
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Sleep tracking, iOS support comes to Google Fit. Google Fit saw an update on Friday that allows the health tracking app to connect with sleep apps and services, thereby allowing users to monitor their rest within Google’s product. The tool’s iPhone app has also received a boost that brings the run, hike or biking route summaries of the Android version those pairing an iPhone with a Wear OS smartwatch or Apple Watch.

“The Google Fit app already tracks my Heart Points and Move Minutes, and I've been monitoring my sleep through apps that I connect to Google Fit so I can make sure I’m well rested for my daily routine,” Defne Gurel, product manager for Google Fit, wrote in a blog post. At Google Fit, we understand that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is more than just tracking what you do on the go. It’s also about resting up and powering down. So today, we’re bringing improved sleep insights and dark theme to our Google Fit app.


Have access, will call. Wired broadband availability is associated with greater use of telemedicine within rural US counties with zero urban areas, according to a research letter published last week in JAMA Internal Medicine. Across a sample of 599 fully rural counties, those with lower broadband access had 34% fewer visits per capital than those with high availability (P = .004). This association was not observed within the sample of 869 metropolitan counties, or 1,317 non-metropolitan counties with some urban communities.

“The FCC’s Connect America Fund has awarded billions of dollars in subsidies to expand broadband, but most of that funding is in counties where we did not observe an association between broadband availability and telemedicine use,” the researchers wrote. “More targeted funding to fully rural counties, where wired broadband may be a critical barrier, could help to alleviate disparities in access to health specialists.”


Connected vape aims to limit underage use. Electronic cigarette maker Juul has launched a Bluetooth-connected e-cigarette device that tracks users’ habits — such as where, when and how often they vape — in an accompanying app, The Financial Times reports. The device has been deployed in the UK and Canada, and includes facial recognition and other device lock features that the company said will help prevent use among those who are underage. The company said that it has no immediate plans to use or sell the collected data.

Juul and other e-cigarette makers have been under sustained fire from the FDA and others highlighting the devices’ role in rising tobacco use among kids and teenagers. The company, in response, characterizes itself as a less harmful alternative for smokers weaning themselves off traditional cigarettes.


VR platform releases validation data. Osso VR, a startup that develops virtual reality software for training surgeons, presented the results of its first platform validation study at this week’s annual meeting of the Western Orthopedic Association.

Conducted by UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, the study randomly assigned 20 participants to undergo traditional training or VR-supplemented education, according to a release from Osso VR describing the results. Those in the latter group completed a procedure 20% faster on average than the control (P = .002), and correctly completed procedure-specific checklist tasks 38% more often. The VR group also scored significantly higher on a standardized assessment scale graded by a blind observer.

“As an orthopaedic surgeon, it’s critical to me that our technology is evidence-based. As we roll out a completely new way to train, we want our users and customers to continue to see this platform as effective and reliable,” Dr. Justin Barad, CEO and cofounder of Osso VR, said in a statement. "These study results are just the beginning as we tackle one of the biggest challenges facing the healthcare industry today. Our goal is to unlock the value our providers and industry are working to bring to patients around the world.”


Now seeking: An Apple health expert. A new Apple job posting surfaced in late July for a senior-level software engineer that highlights the need for health data standards expertise. The posting specifically calls for experience with HL7 FHIR, SNOMED and LOINC, and describes projects around implementing new health features within iOS, the Health app and other support for “the broader health-related efforts at Apple.”