Apple lets users see family members’ Health data

Apple lets users see family members’ Health data

Apple will let people share the data from their Health app with family members or others, the company announced. It’s one of a new slate of health features for iPhone.

With permission, someone can share access to their overall heart rate and movement data. They’ll also be able to share access to alerts, which will ping authorized users when the feature notices things like a high heart rate or change in mobility. The person they’re sharing the data with can message them directly about any changes.

“Many people around the world are caring for someone, and we want to provide a secure and private way for users to have a trusted partner on their health journey,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, in a statement.

The feature could be useful to caregivers who may be keeping tabs on the health of their loved ones, like elderly parents, from a distance. Older adults, though, tend to be less comfortable with this type of monitoring than their caregivers are. Monitoring tools can give peace of mind to caregivers while feeling invasive to the people tracked.

Apple is also adding another health metric, called walking steadiness, to the Health app. It will use mobility data already collected by the iPhone to monitor for any changes to factors like balance or walking patterns, and will tell users if they’re at an increased risk of falling. The app will also include some exercises to help increase steadiness. The company says it built the system using data collected through a clinical study that included over 100,000 participants of all ages.

Falls are a major public health challenge. Each year, around 30 million adults over the age of 65 fall, and many falls lead to injuries or other health issues. Falls are responsible for $50 billion healthcare costs a year, one study estimated.

Users will now also be able to share their Health app data with their doctors. Physicians already regularly have patients bringing readouts from their devices into appointments. The integration will let people transfer that data more directly. Apple said the feature will start off with support from six electronic medical record companies in the United States, including Cerner and Athenahealth. Doctors using those platforms would be able to see the data in the medical record.

Related: