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Here’s how Apple helps you manage your medication with iOS 16 and watchOS 9, including monitoring for harmful drug interactions.
We’ve already done a high-level piece on how Apple will make your iPhone more personal with the upcoming iOS 16 update. It tracks your sleep cycles, brings galleries of your photos to the lock screen and also keeps track of your medication.
Adding your medication
The first thing you need to do to manage your medications is to add them to the Health app. A new explanatory map appears when you select Medicine from the list of tracked categories.
Apple allows you to add them by searching for the name of your medicine, but it’s even easier to scan the label.
Using optical character recognition, also known as OCR, iOS 16 can scan the label on your medicine and automatically add the necessary information to the Health app.
We tested this with our bottle of Omeprazole. When it did, it was able to detect the medicine but did not detect the dosage, despite the fact that it was listed just below the name.
Since it was not certain how many milligrams the pills were, so it provided the available doses based on its database of available medications. We chose the correct amount and moved on to the next step.
Once it knows the medicine, the Health app asks you to describe its shape and color. It has a wealth of forms to choose from, including options for creams or powders. Our Omeprazole is an oval pill with reddish brown on both sides.
You can select colors for each page individually for pill shapes that support multiple colors. The background color is also adjustable.
Once the medication is added, you can move on to your frequency and when you would like a reminder.
Track and monitor your medication
It’s easy enough to open the Health app and mark that you’ve taken your medication. There is even an option for on-demand medication that you do not regularly track. But this is not the best way.
At your predetermined time, a reminder will appear on your lock screen telling you that it is at the time your medicine is to be paid for. You can use Haptic Touch to open the context menu that shows you all your options.
You can mark all your medication as taken, anything that skipped, or ask the app to remind you again in ten minutes. To record them individually, tap the alert and jump directly into the Health app.
Each of your tracked medications is then displayed visually in the Health app. You can see the days you took your medication and the days you skipped. When you select a particular medicine, you can see all the data it has on it.
Mediations can be archived if you do not take them constantly, and they can also be deleted if necessary.
Apple Watch Medicine app
To go along with the new drug tracking, Apple has added a new drug app to the Apple Watch. It has a pill icon and contains basic tracking information for your medicines.
The same warnings on the iPhone also appear on the Apple Watch. This is so much the easier for Apple Watch owners who can log their medication directly from the wrist alarm.
If you tap the alert, it will take you to the watchOS 9 Medicine app, and you can log individual drugs or see their history for the day.
What made significant headlines was Apple’s newfound ability to mark drugs for harmful interactions. This happens automatically and all alerts are displayed in the Medicine category of the Health app.
Harmful interactions are marked between your different medications and common interaction factors. Tobacco, marijuana and alcohol are all available and can be turned off based on what you participate in.
All interactions are categorized as moderate, severe, and critical. Apple says moderate interactions are typically safe, although there may be side effects. Serious interactions should be discussed with your care team before taking them, and critical ones are strongly discouraged unless with explicit instruction.
In fact, most people should not rely on the Health app for harmful interactions, and that should be the last resort in place. Your doctor will typically monitor your medicines for interactions, as will your pharmacist.
Sometimes your doctors do not communicate or you visit a specialist who does not know your history or existing medication. You can also go to different pharmacies and there are times when problems can slip through. The Health app can help.
These warnings can also be helpful for those who are simply forgetful. Your doctor may mention that you should not take two medicines together and you will forget when you take them.
For those who care for the elderly, this can be helpful in ensuring that they have taken their medication or have two incompatible medications. The pill icons can also make it easier to identify medications.
Regardless of the usage situation, Apple’s Health app enhancements will have real – world benefits for many users.
IOS 16 is currently in developer beta. A public beta is scheduled to be released in July before a full release this fall.