Wearable computers have made a huge impact this year. We have covered multiple devices, ranging from those that measure daily physical activity (e.g. Fitbit, Nike Fuelband) to Google Glass.

Now all eyes are on the Apple iWatch.

What will it look like? What will it do? What specifications will it have?

Most of these answers are unavailable due to Apple’s par for the course secretive nature. As such, much has been speculative at best about the iWatch.

In terms of implication for medical practice, the Apple Watch has the potential to be more patient driven than the current iteration of Google Glass. Whereas in the past I have mentioned that Google Glass could be used for multiple medical purposes, Apple Watch may be better suited for patient engagement.

This is due in part to the potential sensors built in, design and placement, and possible syncing ability with the iPhone. This is reinforced by recent news that Apple has employed multiple individuals from companies known for medical sensor tools.

There are several reasons why the Apple Watch will be a great patient engagement tool:

  • Sensors could replace currently available physical activity peripherals and fitness trackers by serving as an advanced pedometer. If there is a built in GPS, the sensors could also be a way to track distance and miles more accurately.
  • Integration with currently available ‘Medical’ and ‘Health and Fitness’ apps available on the iTunes store. For instance, just as Fitbit is able to sync over bluetooth with its app on the iPhone, the iWatch could accomplish the same goal. Many developers may seek to integrate the iWatch option into their apps, negating the development of their own peripheral.
  • Potentially, based on the recent employee acquisitions, there could be sensors available to sense patient vitals. This could consist of pulse, blood pressure, and maybe even blood glucose and other laboratory data. This is a longshot, but would be amazing nonetheless.
  • Health based reminders could be implemented. This includes medication reminders that could be standalone or in-conjunction with an iPhone/iPad app.
  • The iWatch could be used for patient assessment for those individuals at high risk. This includes patients that may fall, for instance, and require immediate assistance. In addition, trackers could be implemented for patients in the hospital and as an identification tool for patients.

Depending on the entry price of the iWatch, its integration into care could be beneficial. If sensors built in are limited to what is currently available (think Fitbit), its integration may be limited. However, if sensors and features are advanced, then the role of the iWatch could be astounding.

Feel free to provide other ideas where the iWatch could be utilized in practice.