Apple took it upon itself to tackle your health and fitness this year, in the form of HealthKit and Health. They both arrived with iOS 8, but while the Health app was accessible, the HealthKit infrastructure was broken. Until iOS 8.0.2 that is.
With the latest update, HealthKit's issues have been seemingly ironed out and those who have the latest software on their devices can now benefit from Apple's new overarching technology.
The company wants to use both HealthKit and Health - combined with smartphones, wearables, and apps - to quantify data about you and your environment and then display all that through an easy-to-read dashboard that's both secure and accurate. If you're confused about how it's going to affect you, including what type of information you're going to need or even be able to read, keep reading.
Pocket-lint has examined the ins and outs of Apple's latest feature set, at least what's been detailed or made public thus far, in an attempt to help make things a little more digestible and simpler to understand for you. So, without further ado, here's your introduction to Apple Health.
What is HealthKit?
Much like HomeKit, another new thing to come from Apple (which Pocket-lint also explained), HealthKit is described as a developer framework. Just think of it as a set of tools and services that developers and manufacturers need in order to make their apps and wearables compatible with Apple's new Health app.
Another key aspect about the HealthKit framework is that it can securely share your health data between compatible apps and services. Imagine, for instance, that you use a smart device with its own app to monitor your weight each day. Now also imagine you use a second app to track the amount of calories you consume daily. HealthKit would let the scale app share weight data with your calorie-monitoring app, thus giving you more insight.
Apple has said that many developers, manufacturers, and even health service providers are on board and currently enabling their products or services with HealthKit support. But the company has only named a few partners so far, including but not limited to: iDevices, Withings, Fitbit, WebMD, and Mayo Clinic. Apps such as MyFitnessPal have also come forward to announce their apps will soon be HealthKit-enabled.
What is Health?
Apple has created a new health and fitness app for iPhone, called Health, naturally. There has been no indication yet from Apple that an iPad version is coming.
The Health app rolled out to iPhones in September, alongside the release of iOS 8. In its current form, the app is essentially a visual dashboard that can pull your health and fitness data from compatible apps and smart devices and then display any useful bits through an easy-to-understand interface. You might see how many calories you burned during a workout, for instance, or how far you ran in the morning.
The Health app can also display more complex readings such as your blood pressure, body weight, sleep levels, and glucose levels. It just needs to be connected or paired with smart devices that can measure these statistics. Smart devices like the Withings body scale often come with their own iPhone app for displaying data, but Apple's Health app replaces it as well as any other health and fitness apps you may use.
Although the Health app targets people who are interested in learning more about their health and fitness, it's primarily an app for convenience.
Instead of opening and using several different apps throughout the day, you can now read an overview of all your health statistics through one simple app from Apple. The Health app also works perfectly with Apple Watch, meaning you could also replace several of your fitness wearables with the company's one smartwatch.
How can apps read your health data?
Once you've given permission to a health or fitness app, it uses sensors and motion coprocessors in your iPhone or connected wearables and smart devices to collect your health data (like calorie intake, steps taken, blood pressure, body weight, sleep levels, glucose levels, etc).
Example connected wearables and smart devices include everything from smartwatches and fitness bands to Bluetooth heart-rate monitors and blood glucose readers. According to the HealthKit framework, your iPhone is the first device to collect and supply data, followed by wearables and other smart devices. HealthKit quantifies that data and pipes a simplified version of everything to the Health app, for your viewing pleasure.
Keep in mind that health and fitness apps without their own smart devices also work with HealthKit and the Health app. You just need to manually enter your age, height, weight, and other health-based information into those apps, and then they can send it to HealthKit for quantifying and sharing with other apps.
How do you use the Health app?
The Health app is automatically available on your iPhone after installing iOS 8.
Upon opening the Health app for the first time, you will see an empty Dashboard as the app's main screen. The top bar of the Dashboard lets you sort health data by day, week, month, and year. Simply tap on whichever sorting option you prefer. As for the bar that runs along the bottom of the Dashboard, it features icons to open the following submenus: Dashboard, Health Data, Sources, and Medical ID. Simply tap on any of these icons to access their respective submenus.
Tap on the Health Data icon on the bottom bar of the Health app's main screen to access the Health Data submenu.
You will then see categories for All, Body Measurements, Fitness, Me, Nutrition, Results, Sleep, and Vitals. Each of these categories allow you to input your health data manually...or they'll just pull it from your health and fitness apps, iPhone, and other smart devices.
Every bit of data under each category - such as Body Fat Percentage under Body Measurements - offers granular privacy and setting controls, allowing you to decide whether you want to share specific data with specific sources or even display it all on your Dashboard.
And finally, if you'd like to export all your health data, you can select All from the categories section and then tap the Export icon in the top right-hand corner.
Tap on the Sources icon on the bottom bar of the Health app's main screen to access the Sources submenu.
From the Sources submenu you can see all app requests you have already approved. An app will only send you a request if it is capable of collecting and serving up health data. The calorie-tracking app MyFitnessPal, for instance, once it becomes HealthKit-enabled, will send you a request that you can either accept or deny. If you accept that request, your Health Data menu and all related categories will begin pulling relevant health data from MyFitnessPal.
Once the Health app receives health data from MyFitnessPal, your Dashboard will then immediately display all that information in an easy-to-read visual.
Tap on the Medical ID icon on the bottom bar of the Health app's main screen to access the Medical ID submenu.
The Medical ID submenu asks you to create a medical ID the first time you visit it. Your Medical ID is a complete profile of your basic medical records, and it's particularly useful to first responders as well as anyone with emergency access to your Medical ID such as a doctor. Enabling the feature allows anyone to view your Medical ID profile just by swiping from your iPhone lock screen and then tapping Emergency.
You can fully configure Medical ID to include your custom picture, name, date of birth, medical conditions, notes, allergies, reactions, and medications. Simply tap the Edit link in the top right-hand corner of the first Medical ID screen in order to start adding details. You can also add an emergency contact name, telephone number, and relationship. Toward the bottom you will see more fields for blood type, height and weight, and whether you are an organ donor.
If you should change your mind about having such sensitive information available from the lock screen, all the details in your Medical ID profile can be deleted via the Delete Medical ID button at the bottom of the editing page. You can also toggle off the Show When Locked option on the editing page. Keep in mind you're also able to go back into the Medical ID submenu of the Health app to make changes at any time.
Is your data safe?
Apple of course knows you care about privacy, so it has included granular controls in the Health app that allows you to decide whether you want to share your weight from a weight-tracking app, for instance, with another health app. Apple also promised to store all data locally on your device and won't ever give it to others.
Want to know more?
Visit Apple's Health page for more information about the Health app.