Apple lets users see family members’ health data

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Apple lets people share their Health app data with family members or others, the company announced. It is one of the new health features for iPhone.

With permission, someone can share access to their general heart rate and movement data. They can also share access to alerts, which will ping authorized users when the feature notices things like a high heart rate or change in mobility. The person they share the data with can message them directly about any changes.

“Many people around the world care for someone, and we want to provide users with a safe and personal way to have a trusted partner on their health journey,” Apple’s chief operating officer Jeff Williams said in a statement.

The feature can be useful for caregivers who can remotely monitor the health of their loved ones, such as elderly parents. However, older adults are often less comfortable with this kind of monitoring than their caregivers. Monitoring tools can give caregivers peace of mind, while feeling intrusive to those being monitored.

Apple is also adding another health metric called gait stability to the Health app. It uses mobility data already collected by the iPhone to check for changes in factors such as balance or gait patterns, and will tell users if they are at increased risk of falling. The app also includes some exercises to increase stability. The company says it built the system using data collected through a clinical study that included more than 100,000 participants of all ages.

Falling is a major public health challenge. About 30 million adults over the age of 65 fall each year, and many fall lead to injuries or other health problems. Falls are responsible for $50 billion in healthcare costs each year, a study estimated.

Users can now also share their Health app data with their doctors. Doctors already regularly have patients who take readings from their devices to appointments. The integration allows people to transfer that data more directly. Apple said the feature will begin supporting six electronic health records in the United States, including Cerner and Athenahealth. Physicians using those platforms would be able to see the data in the medical record.