Apple plots smartphone-based medical device application for Apple Watch

The Apple Watch--Courtesy of Apple

Apple ($AAPL) has big plans for its Apple Watch, and one of them involves turning the product into a consumer-facing medical device.

The company recently filed a patent for an electronic device that uses sensors to collect, monitor and send health data. The product could work with a smartphone to track individuals' vital signs such as heart rate, oxygen level, blood pressure or temperature, Apple said in its filing with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

While the company isn't revealing many details about the technology, the patent filing offers some clues. The filing, titled "Care Event Detection and Alerts," suggests that Apple Watch would be able to flag health issues through a wearable device or smartphone. The alerts would be sent to a person's emergency contacts, or the user could turn them off within a certain time frame.

But Apple could face an uphill battle trying to bring its plans to fruition. The company has dealt with setbacks with Apple Watch since rolling out the product last year, and cancelled plans to incorporate heartbeat monitoring and blood pressure monitoring features due to regulatory hurdles.

A photo from Apple's patent filing for a medical device application of its Apple Watch.--Courtesy of Apple

Some analysts said that the company should turn to corporate markets with Apple Watch to boost sales. Business will comprise 15% of watch sales by 2017, FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives told Bloomberg last year.

At least for now, though, Apple seems committed to pursuing its med tech aspirations. In December, MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper launched a pilot breast cancer study that uses the company's Apple Watch to monitor patients.

"Patient engagement is a critical factor in successful treatment plans. We expect that this pilot project will help us gather important telemetry data to observe how patients are interacting with the Apple Watch and app so that we can provide the best user experience," Dr. Generosa Grana, director of the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, said at the time.

- here's the patent filing