Apple adds medication tracking to iPhone and Apple Watch


Owners of an iPhone or Apple Watch have a new health feature, an app called Medications, that will help them manage and track their use of medicines.

The new tool works as a component of Apple's Health app and will let users add drugs or other health products like vitamins and supplements to a personal list – either by scanning a label or finding the product in a directory – and create custom schedules for them.

Users can also use the built-in health records feature on the Health app to download current medications, said Ricky Bloomfield, a former director of mobile strategy at Duke University who joined Apple as clinical and health informatics lead in 2016 in a tweet.

Medications will issue a reminder when it is time to take one, with the user indicating whether they have taken or skipped a dose, and will keep a record of usage. A customised picture and background can be assigned to each medicine to help avoid errors.

In the US, it will also be able to alert users if there are any interactions between drugs they have added to the Health app that could make them less effective or cause unexpected side effects, said Apple. For example, it can warn of possible issues like mixing drugs like metronidazole or cetirizine with alcohol.

Other features include compatibility with Apple's health data sharing facility, which allows information to be shared securely with healthcare staff or carers, and the ability to export a medications list into a PDF.

New atrial fibrillation feature

Medications was just one of the health-focused updates released as Apple previewed its new iOS 16 and watchOS 9 operation systems at its Worldwide Developers Conference this week. Another was a new feature for the Apple Watch, which has a built-in ECG that can already be used to identify signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib), a potentially serious heart condition.

Now, users who are diagnosed with AFib can turn on an FDA-cleared AFib History feature that provides another layer of information, including an estimate of how frequently a user’s heart rhythm shows signs of AFib.

They will receive weekly notifications to understand frequency and view their AFib history in the Health app, including lifestyle factors that may influence the condition, like sleep, alcohol consumption, and exercise.

A similar documenting approach has been applied to the Sleep app, which is used to maintain healthy sleep habits and track sleep patterns.

The update expands the information available by using the Apple Watch's accelerometer and heart rate sensor to detect sleep stages – i.e. REM, core and deep sleep – using machine learning techniques.