Apple with iOS 16 has added a new drug management feature to the Health app, designed to allow users to track their medications to make sure a dose isn’t missed. The feature works in conjunction with a new Drugs app on Apple Watch and is useful for everything from prescriptions to vitamins.
This guide covers everything you need to know about the drug tracking feature along with other new features in the iOS 16 Health app.
“Drugs” is a new section available in the Health app, accessible by going to the Browse section and scrolling to Drugs or typing it in the Health app search bar.
In the Drugs app, you can enter all the prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and vitamins you take so you can get reminders to take medicines, check interactions, and more.
Adding a drug is as simple as tapping the Add Drug button in the Health app. From there, you can type in the name of a medicine or vitamin, or use your iPhone’s camera to scan the pill bottle label. Adding by scanning is simple, but it doesn’t always collect all the information, so you may need to manually select the dose and form (pill, spray, etc.).
From there, you can choose the frequency of taking the drug. You can choose a specific day or range of days, specific days of the week or opt as needed, then you can set the time you want to take the drug.
Medicines can be customized with a shape and color to match the pill you take in real life for quick and easy recognition.
You can add all your medications and vitamins in the Health app, with everything viewable in a list.
Once you’ve added the drug to the Health app and set a time and day to take it, iPhone will notify you when it’s time to take it. You can get notifications for all medications in the Health app that have been assigned a schedule.
Medication notifications are classified as timed notifications and will be sent at the specified time unless you cancel the setting.
Notifications are automatic for all medications that have a set time and / or day for when you take them.
Registration of drugs
When a reminder notification appears, you can tap it to bring it to a pop-up where you can mark a drug as “Taken” or Ignored. “You can also use the” Mark all as taken “option if you have multiple drugs scheduled for at the same time. Drugs can also be marked as registered from the Drug List in the Health app.
The Health app can track your medications over time, so you can check if you’re taking your medications regularly. You can view the data organized by day, week, month, six months and year.
Apple will also provide a “Highlight” of drugs in the health summary that will let you know how often you have taken a drug in the past 28 days.
Apple Watch drug app
In watchOS 9, there is a dedicated drug app that you can tap into for faster registration. You can register each drug individually in the app or use “Log All As Taken” to get them all at once. If you missed a dose, you can choose the “Skipped” option.
The Apple Watch app is only for marking medications as taken, and all other medication management tasks must be done in the Health app.
The Health app checks regularly to make sure the medications you are taking have no interactions with each other, preventing you from taking a combination of medications that could be dangerous.
Side effects of drugs and other information
If you tap into any drug from the Health app list, you can then click the “Side Effects” button to see the side effects listed for that medicine, if available.
Not all drugs have side effects listed, and the information is provided by Elsevier, a Netherlands-based company specializing in medical content, including the annual ScienceDirect series of drug side effects books.
In the Medicines section of the Health app, there is an option for “Export Medication List PDF”, which, as the name suggests, creates a simple PDF of the medications you take. You can share this list with a doctor.
Characteristics of sleep
For those who wear the Apple Watch in bed to track sleep, watchOS 9 and iOS 16 offer new features. The sleep recorded by the Apple Watch is divided into the categories Alarm, REM, Core (light) and Deep sleep, so you can get an idea of how well you slept during the night.
The Apple Watch will track when you go to bed, how long it takes you to fall asleep, how often you wake up and how long you spend in REM, Core and Deep sleep.
Apple defines the different sleep categories as follows:
- I wake – You may find yourself awake during parts of a sleep session. It is normal for people to wake up from time to time. It is possible that you will fall asleep right away and do not remember waking up during the night.
- REM – This sleep phase can play a role in learning and memory. During this phase, your muscles are more relaxed and your eyes move quickly from side to side. This is also the time when most of your dreams occur.
- Nucleus – Sometimes referred to as light sleep, this phase is considered as important as the others. This phase often accounts for the majority of your sleeping time each night. Brain waves that may be important for cognition occur during this phase.
- Deep – Also known as slow wave sleep due to brain wave patterns, this is the stage where the body’s tissues are repaired and essential hormones are released. This phase typically occurs over longer periods during the first half of the sleep session.
The sleep data collected by the Apple Watch can be viewed in the “Sleep” section of the Health app. Sleep data can now be viewed by day instead of just by week, so you can learn more about your sleep quality day by day.
Aside from the new sleep categories, the Sleep functionality is the same. You still use the same Bedtime and Alarm clock features, which link to the Relax and Focus on sleep options.
Invitations to share health
You can invite family members to share their data with you in iOS 16, making it easy to track the health information of elderly family members or children. Once an invitation is received, the person can choose to select which data to share with you.
Physical activity monitoring
In iOS 15 and earlier, you needed an Apple Watch to take advantage of the Fitness app, but in iOS 16 that has changed.
You can use the Fitness app with the iPhone motion sensors to monitor your activity level. IPhone can estimate steps, distance traveled and track third-party workouts to provide details on how many calories you have burned in a day.
Without an Apple Watch, you’re limited to one daily move goal, with no exercise and standing goals available.
Do you have questions about the new health and fitness features in iOS 16, do you know a feature we have left out, or would you like to offer feedback on this guide? Send us an email here.