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Apple developing system to help users track, manage chronic conditions

Credit: Beddit

Apple is working on an integrated health sensor system that could monitor, analyze and help manage the state of a user's chronic diseases.

The company's current health efforts focus on the Apple Watch and its onboard suite of sensors. But a new patent application published Thursday suggests that Apple is working on other types of health systems that could work in conjunction with the wearable.

The patent application, titled "Monitoring System for Assessing Control of a Disease State," offers a few ways that various health technology systems could be used to address the "large and costly" problem of managing chronic diseases.

Although Apple singles out asthma care as an example in the text, it notes that similar health systems could be used to help track hypertension, diabetes, mental health diseases or other chronic conditions.

As the patent outlines, the first step in the system would be to collect data on a patient, including their sleep quality or oxygen saturation, and combine it with environment factors like demographics or region. This data could then be used to create a "patient-specific model" for monitoring.

Once the model is generated, the system uses various devices to monitor changes in the disease state. These sensors could be placed on and around a user, comprising wearable sensors or other systems in a user's day-to-day environment.

Examples of where bed sensors could be placed. Credit: Apple
Examples of where bed sensors could be placed. Credit: Apple

For asthma patients, as an example, that could include "one or more sensors located under a patient's mattress" to collect heart rate and respiratory data while they sleep.

A key aspect is tracking changes in those data metrics and comparing them to a baseline. From there, the system could detect whether a person's chronic condition is changing.

This isn't the first time Apple has been found to be working on sleep-related trackers, but the patent application notes that a bed tracker could take the form of a "disc-like device" underneath the mattress or a small accelerometer placed by the user.

A figure explaining the chronic management process. Credit: Apple
A figure explaining the chronic management process. Credit: Apple

Along with methods for collecting and analyzing data, the system may also guide users through questionnaires that track symptoms, medication adherence and potential triggers.

The inventors of the patent are credited as Bronwyn Harris, Todd Murphy and Michael Carchia. Though none of them have appeared in past Apple patent applications, Harris has been named as the inventor on other medical-related patents. Apple first applied for the patent in April 2020.

Apple patents give no guarantees that the technology they describe will ever come to light, and they don't offer any sort of hard timeline of a product release. With that being said, Apple has been making a steady push into health technology and wellness sensor systems, so this patent is likely on embodiment of Apple's plans for the area.