Tomorrow is a big day for both consumers and marketers alike as Apple is poised to announce the launch of their next iPhone and it’s accompanying operating system, iOS8. This year, one of the big highlights of the updated technology is a focus on personal, data driven health. As wearables continue to be all the rage, Apple and Google both are rumored to be including advanced tracking mechanisms into their phones, allowing them to go beyond simple surface level data (such as steps, diet, calories, and sleep) into more meaningful measures of personal health. When you pair that with another big trend, data aggregation, you get a device that can do what many electronic medical record systems have failed to do well: namely, provide deep insight into personal health that can be used by both a person and their doctor to stay ahead of any complications in their health.
As a healthcare marketer, I’ve already been thinking about how we could potentially leverage this platform for various patients and disease states to bring added value to the pharmaceutical products we represent. However, last week Apple issued a statement to developers saying that no HealthKit data can be sold to third party advertisers. After hearing this, I decided to think a little bit more about this decision.
The way I see it, Apple doesn’t want HealthKit to become a mess of banner ads, plaguing the screen real-estate and taking people away from the information that’s really important. They want a clean experience that can actually affect the way people look at their health. Seeing that they also want this to be something that helps doctors and patients collaborate, it probably wouldn’t serve well to turn HealthKit into WebMD, where everyone and their mother is giving you a diagnostic opinion. Additionally, Apple and third-party developers have to tread carefully regarding HIPAA (health information privacy) regulation and the sharing of personally identifiable information (PII). I imagine, while this is something they could work with the government to overcome, it may be better left alone for now.
On the other hand, it’s a little unclear whether or not the third-parties, who tie their apps into HealthKit’s system, will still be able to sell data through their own apps if they so choose. Since HealthKit is really just a visualization platform (as far as I can tell) consumers would still be doing a lot of their interaction through third-party apps. Thus, it remains to be seen whether a third-party can sell their own data to advertisers through their app. Basically we’d get only one piece of the data rather than the full profile of a user.
Personally, while I lament the loss of such great targetability, I think this is a good decision by Apple. As marketers, there is so much more we can do than just send out really targeted push messages. Apple is giving marketers and pharmaceutical companies the chance to really add to a person’s health experience and build tools that allow patients on these products keep an eye on multiple issues at once. In the office we often discuss how to build platforms like this, that can help the patient truly understand their situation and their treatment plan and I think HealthKit has the potential to make great strides on that front.
One of the great hinderances of healthcare marketing is that you can’t really make implications or associate your product to anything outside of its specific indication. This can be limiting for patients since often times there are significant lifestyle impacts or potential effects on other aspects of their life even when only considering treatment for one condition. Think about the relationship between asthma and exercise, diabetes and diet, or smoking and emphysema. HealthKit will allow pharmaceutical brands to keep their information contained on their app but by tying it into HealthKit, they can still (theoretically) allow patients to look at their medication and disease related information in context of all the rest of their health information.
Until the official release (and likely even longer judging by the FDA’s track record) it remains to be seen how the FDA and regulatory teams will respond and view this new tool. However, that should not deter marketers but rather challenge them to explore and experiment in an effort to actually guide and modernize this regulation. We should be looking for new and better ways to use these new systems that could standardize health tracking for A LOT of people. In many cases, health is not a one-and-done transaction. It’s important that as these trends become more important and more common place that we treat health and chronic disease as the long term relationship. Rather than the unfortunate standard where we often awkwardly continue hard-selling people who have already bought, we can and should be leveraging this technology, when applicable, to help patients navigate the entire course of their treatment from beginning to end, never leaving them to fend for themselves.
How do you feel about Apple’s upcoming HealthKit (or Google’s Fit for that matter)? Let me know in the comments below! You can also find the original Fast Company Article here: http://bit.ly/1we8vGv