Apple Watch, HealthKit & the meaning of normal

Underwhelming as copy for a watch

A tiny thought about the Apple Watch and HealthKit. Long term, the flood of additional data on the general population’s state of health and range of daily behaviour will be of benefit.

The problem is going to come with gauging exactly when we’ve reached that ‘long term’.

Let me take an example. I have no medical qualifications, obviously, but my job does involve speaking to medical consultants more often than most. One, a neurosurgeon, told me that the model of what was normal for a brain in the general population has broadened considerably in the few years since MRI cranial scans became widespread.

He described what happened when an MRI scanning machine arrived at a UK hospital where he was working. For calibration purposes, it needed a largish number of people without brain disorders to volunteer to be scanned.

These turned out to be (a) bored members of the public or (b) medical students.

All were healthy and normal. A statistically significant number turned out to have brain abnormalities, with the abnormalities more common in the medical students than in the general public.

I anticipate the Apple Watch and HealthKit data to initially demonstrate a similar wider range of ‘normal’ in human health matters than is currently recognised.

But until then, doctors are going to have to dig themselves out from the mountains of data that will fall on them and the current models in order to have a chance to to assess what it actually means for the person in front of them.

1 Comment

  • John says:

    What I see as the big difference between your example and modern pseudo medical devices such as the Apple Watch, is that professionals were analysing the MRI scans and interpreting anomalies. Where as it will be lay people interpreting the health data from these devices, I see a lot of health anxieties developing from this focus health data.

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