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Apple, Google, Samsung begin fight for mHealth dominance

Author Name Jennifer Bresnick   |   Date June 17, 2014

You may think that people who say they can’t survive without their smartphones are exaggerating, but if the three biggest names in technology are to have their way, that hyperbolic statement may just become a fact.  The mHealth market is poised to explode into consumer consciousness as Apple, Google, and Samsung all start to hype their entries into the “quantified self” ecosystem: three different platforms to aggregate, analyze, and report on data provided by wearable devices, sensors, and patient-provided input.


Google stirs up excitement for Google Fit
Google has flirted with the healthcare space before, offering the failed Google Health platform, an attempt at the patient portal that didn’t quite make the grade.  The system was shut down at the beginning of 2013 after users realized that tracking their data was more or less pointless if they couldn’t do anything with it.  In the past year, however, with the launch of Google Glass and its budding acceptance in the healthcare industry, the search engine giant is focusing again on what could be a very lucrative market.
Slated to be launched at a developer conference next week, Google Fit looks like it will be much more than a vault to store data.  Sources say it will be a centralized interface for patients to take charge of their own information, Forbes reports, interfacing with wearable devices and health tracking apps through an open API.  Ultimately, the platform may find a home on Android smartwatches, but if the data will find its way into providers’ EHRs is yet to be seen.
Apple’s HealthKit gets more than their fanboys fluttering
Apple is not letting Google run away with the healthcare market, and may even be better positioned to lure users into its clutches.  Not only does iOS have incredible branding power and loyalty on its side, already embracing the idea that Apple technology is a lifestyle choice, but their recently announced partnership with Epic Systems and the Mayo Clinic may help them lock down the health IT sphere.
Apple’s HealthKit can log basics like exercise and sleep activity, but it can also pull in data from more serious hardware like blood pressure monitors, and can alert patients and physicians when something looks wrong.  With Mayo Clinic’s involvement and the backing of hospital EHR mainstay Epic to lend credibility to the platform, Apple may have the edge over Google where it matters: with the physicians who will ultimately be looking at all this patient-generated data and trying to make decisions based upon it.
Samsung hopes to rule the smartwatch with SAMI
Samsung may not have quite the same glamour in the US market as Apple and Google, but they shouldn’t be thought of as third rate.  Unlike its competitors, the company has already launched several entries into the smartwatch and wearable sensors industry, including its flagship wrist computer called Gear, and mHealth may be the key to its survival and adoption.  Samsung’s SAMI platform, which promises to be free and open, is something of a cross between Apple’s Siri and Google’s failed Health databank. SAMI is morphing from a personal assistant into a personal filing cabinet, collecting and holding streams of data, including health information, which can then be accessed and spit out by apps that plug into the repository.  Samsung hopes that developers will create innovative services by combining SAMI’s data with other analytics and novel interfaces to provide new insights into health and wellness for consumers.
While all three companies are taking slightly different approaches to the age-old problem of getting patients to care about how their daily choices affect their long-term health, the competition could be good for consumers and providers alike.
Since the advent of patient-generated data, providers have complained about the lack of a cohesive infrastructure that allows them to accept meaningful amounts of information in an intuitive, easily accessible way.  By tying patient-generated data into familiar, robust platforms, Google, Apple, and Samsung might be unlocking the key to better patient engagement without provider headaches on the other side.
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