What Apple and Samsung Can Learn from Digital Health Startups

Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi 


It’s hard to know whether the rumors about Healthbook, rumored to be in development by Apple, have caught public attention.  Since a December report of a meeting between Apple and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a March report suggesting that Apple had been developing a health and fitness data clearinghouse, including some images of the expected U.I. (which was confirmed today, but in a demo app called “health”) there has been industry speculation about Apple’s intentions in the digital health space. Even Samsung’s launch of Simband and SAMI this week suggest that there’s something behind all the talk.

From my perspective there are two major points to take from all this industry talk:

1) Health data is being recognized for its value in consumer-driven technology companies.

2) The market for digital health innovations, consumer and medical grade, is now maturing.

Although Samsung’s SAMI and the Apple Health App and Healthkit cloud data service validate these points, there’s a lot that these industry giants can learn from the startups, like OMsignal, who are in the trenches of the wearable health market creation.  Particularly, they would see that a focus on specific problems and health goals is the way to create a sustainable business in the digital health arena.  It’s impossible to be everything to everyone, as can be seen with several early failed attempts to develop electronic patient records (EPRs).  I’m hoping that as details of SAMI and Healthbook unfold we will see that these innovative companies will harness the power of developers by creating a platform for secure data sharing.

Related to this is the idea of frictionless data collection.  Having to manually track inputs requires a lot of will power and determination.  Even putting on a device every morning can be enough to decrease engagement. 

Finally, signal quality is everything.  If the inputs aren’t accurate the insights they can provide decrease in value to the user.  If the insights don’t provide enough value your device or app is going into the graveyard. You can see this trend in the reported 90% attrition rate in wearable fitness tracker use after 3 months.

Digital media has an opportunity to transform an inefficient, error-prone sick care system into a wellness system.  Apple and Samsung have now provided a huge validation of this industry.  Now it is essential that developers, practitioners and the public take up the challenge to take early efforts and turn them into something that will provide a lasting societal change.  And for now, we at OMsignal are happy to continue creating the signal and insights that are the fuel of the emerging battle of biosignal.


Dr. Jesse Slade Shantz


(Photo courtesy of Mashable)

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