Every year around June, the Apple developer community gathers to hear the announcements about the new features that will soon available. This helps developers to plan exciting apps or make enhancements to their current products.
This year’s enhancements are particularly appealing for the healthcare industry, since revolutionary technologies have been made easier to adopt and incorporate into new or existing apps.
Let’s take a quick look at some of these technologies, and how they can help patients and doctors improve quality of care and how such tools will continue to enhance patient engagement.
1. CareKit: User-Centric Medical Care
CareKit is a new open source framework for creating apps that places users at the center of their medical care by helping them to play an active role in managing their health. For instance, they can track treatment tasks, assess their progress and share this information with friends, family and their healthcare providers.
It complements the existing suite of health-related frameworks currently available from Apple (such as ResearchKit and HealthKit), which already have made it easier to access and store health data, together with collecting vitals from Apple Watch. CareKit is appropriate for managing a wide range of care plans that could include managing chronic illnesses, achieving health and wellness goals, etc.
CareKit defines tasks that the user is expected to perform as part of a treatment (e.g. exercising, taking a medication), as well as presenting and tracking the aforementioned tasks to evaluate the effectiveness of the care plan (recording vitals, pain scales, etc.).
Within this new framework, “Insights” allows users to chart the collected data and shows the correlation between the user’s treatment and his or her progress. If users want to share their data, “Connect” will enable them to do so by displaying contacts associated to the user’s doctor, relatives and friends. It allows users to communicate by phone, text or email, and it includes a capability to share PDF reports.
This new framework enables developers to quickly offer powerful apps to help patients improve their healthcare. It gives them the power of using their iPhone to not only have a plan that will help them achieve their health goals or follow a care treatment, but also most importantly to track progress and share results with their doctors.
2. Drag and Drop: A Simple Way of Moving Items on Your Device
With the iOS 11 update will come added support for system-wide drag and drop allowing users to tap and hold on an image, a file or selected text and drag it to where they want it to go. Users can also drag contacts, reminders, maps and more. Multiple selection is allowed by simply starting to drag one item and then tapping others to add them. Additionally, users can move content from one app to another by hovering over the icon.
This powerful functionality could allow providers using EMA™, Modernizing Medicine’s specialty-specific electronic health record (EHR) system, on an Apple device to more easily add images, consent forms, educational materials and other files to a patient record.
In medical practice, this is a very helpful feature. For instance, several consents could be dragged from a central documents location, and dropped in the patient’s chart for him/her to sign. Images received by email, or captured by the device, could also be easily associated to a patient without any special interface to allow that sharing. This drag and drop capability has the potential to simplify the daily workflow of providers, allowing them to focus on their patients.
3. Browsing Local and iCloud Documents: Organizing and Sharing Files
The native Files app which is new in iOS 11, provides users a central space for browsing, searching and organizing files. It is a similar experience to Finder on the Mac, and it allows users to even share files across devices, iCloud drive and other services like Box and Dropbox.
This feature, together with the new drag and drop capability, will empower users to intuitively move files into their apps with fewer interactions.
When it comes to the healthcare industry, such features could greatly facilitate file sharing and help better organize common documents such as consents or educational materials, as well as patient specific files like photos, results scans, etc.
Of course, protecting patients’ information is always of utmost importance. This new app could help improve provider efficiency by making it easier to update patient records with the necessary documents.
4. Support for Machine Learning Models: A Tool for Prediction
Core ML, also new in iOS 11, is a toolkit that facilitates integrating machine learning models into an app. It makes optimal use of the available resources by deciding whether to run the model on the CPU or the GPU. Thus, users can run machine learning models on the device, and data doesn’t need to leave the device to be analyzed.
By using Core ML, developers can more easily build computer vision machine learning features into apps. Features such as image registration could be incorporated into health software to help predict diseases by training the models to recognize patterns.
5. Augmented Reality: The Future on Your Device
ARKit allows users to create augmented reality experiences by blending digital objects and information with the environment around the user. By using the camera, the device can analyze and find horizontal planes, as well as use the sensor to estimate total amount of light available in a scene giving an even more realistic experience to the user.
ARKit opens a whole world of possibilities for the healthcare industry, since the technology will be available on millions of users’ phones. It could allow simulations of real medical situations to help doctors make decisions, operate, advise, etc.
At the same time, it will empower patients to better share their symptoms with their providers, explore medication and treatment effects and more.
In summary, iOS 11 is packed with thrilling new features that spark the flame of innovation to push the healthcare industry even further while benefiting the provider and the patient. Revolutionary new apps, in conjunction with more and better capabilities for existing apps, will help bring patients and providers closer together and enhance patient engagement.