How could we improve Health on iOS?

Apple introduced HealthKit and the Health app with iOS 8. An amazing opportunity for health apps to exchange data: make activity trackers talk to calorie counters. Let your connected scale automatically update your weight in all your favorite apps at once. Not to mention how all this data could contribute to science, health care, and our general wellbeing.

We’re getting a lot of users that would like to make use of these new health features, but don’t really get the immediate value of the newly introduced Health app. While there are already a good number of apps available that can synchronize data through HealthKit. This article describes some quick improvements.


Get those apps in there.

One of the first reasons is that the Health app requires other apps to populate it with data. If you open up the Health app for the first time, you see this:

Although the blank state’s aesthetic is perfectly fine, the flow to add data as widgets to the Dashboard could be improved.

Adding a widget happens about 3 taps deeper. And you won’t find much interesting data until you actually start connecting HealthKit enabled apps to it.

Many people don’t know which apps can read & write to Health. Good thing there is a great section on the App Store that highlights Apps for Health. I recommend you check it out.

So how could we improve this?

Perhaps like this.

A simple banner linking to the App Store feature so people can download apps that will improve their health, and populate the Health app with interesting data.

People win, health app developers win, Apple wins.

Permissions

Another thing we’d love to see improved is the permissions dialogue. iOS 8 allows you to sync a great variety of data types to the Health app. So many, that the current permissions dialogue can be quite overwhelming.

MyFitnessPal is a great app that lets you keep a diary of everything you eat so you can manage your weight better. Their food database is absolutely baffling, as they collect information from millions of users tracking what they eat every day.

This also means that the data the MyFitnessPal can sync with the Health app is extremely rich, and very complex.

A possible solution could be to condense the permission sections to Write, Read, Advanced, and the option to add this data set immediately to the Health app Dashboard.

This could be less overwhelming to most people, and can help them get more out of the Health app with less effort.

People who want to have more control over what data gets synchronized, and what apps end up reading data from each other, can tap Advanced and customize the data stream to their preference.

Another option would be to simplify permission per category rather than limiting it to Read & Write. Having categories like Fitness, Body Measurements, Me, Nutrition, etc. can optimize flow for apps that can sync many types of data, while still being more descriptive for the people granting permission.

Your data should stay yours

Now, there is obviously something to say about displaying all types of data and their corresponding switches upfront. My ‘optimizations’ assume that developers will use all this privacy sensitive data in an ethical way. The proposed design would also allow developers to access all data with a flip of the switch, without much consideration from the people granting access.

There’s a lot of sensitivity about trust, especially in regard to connected health data. Rightfully so. That’s why it’s extremely important app developers educate people on how they use their health data to improve apps, feed databases, and make money.

Get more out of the Health app

You can read more about how we dove deeper into HealthKit sync with Human, and with MyFitnessPal, and I’d love to see more designers contribute to the Health dialogue. I’m @renn on Twitter.