On Apple HealthKit, Apple ResearchKit, Theranos, the Kinsa smartphone thermometer, and natural family planning apps from Kindara and Ovuline

Apple announced its Health app and HealthKit, the associated application programming interface (API) for developers, in 2014. The Health app provides a dashboard on an iPhone, an Apple Watch, or a 5th generation or later iPod Touch (though not just yet on an iPad) of a user’s health and fitness data aggregated from HealthKit-enabled apps and wearable technology (for example, Fitbit with Wristband Manager, Jawbone UP, and Garmin VivoSmart).

Apple also announced its ResearchKit, an open-source software kit to facilitate development of medical apps, in 2015. ResearchKit is an endeavor to encourage sharing large amounts of data, hopefully without privacy breaches.

According to Apple:

Over 900 apps have already been developed using HealthKit, transforming how we track, manage, and interact with our health. With a user’s consent, ResearchKit can seamlessly tap into the pool of useful data generated by HealthKit — like daily step counts, calorie use, and heart rates — making it accessible to medical researchers.

Some years ago (I cannot ascertain exactly when), Theranos (founded in 2003) popularized blood-sampling via a few blood drops obtained from a fingerstick (or a heelprick for a baby) rather than via vials from traditional venipuncture. Such sampling not only uses much less blood but is less costly and Theranos even posts its prices online, “a seemingly obvious service to consumers, but one that is revolutionary in the notoriously opaque, arbitrary, and disingenuous world of contemporary health care pricing” according to Fortune. It may not be long before a bevy of apps exists to allow bloodless testing via a smartphone app (perhaps using an infrared beam aimed at a fingertip or earlobe).

The Kinsa Smart Thermometer is the first FDA-cleared, app-enabled thermometer and is gaining rave reviews. The accompanying Kinsa mobile app allows users to:

  • Create individual profiles for each member of a family;
  • Record and monitor fever, symptom, and illness history;
  • Make temperature-taking fun for kids through interactive screens;
  • Report the progression of illnesses to physicians;
  • Keep track of medication dosages and timing; and
  • Document any physical symptoms with photos.
The Kinsa Smart Thermometer

The Kinsa Smart Thermometer

Kindara offers the Wink app and Ovuline offers the Ovia Fertility app for tracking a woman’s fertility (Ovuline also makes the Ovia Pregnancy app). These are popular with adherents of Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods for avoiding or achieving pregnancy without drugs, devices or interventions that impair natural fertility. NFP methods embrace a fertility awareness approach to timing sexual intercourse to avoid or achieve pregnancy.