New Apple Health Data App

Apple is providing easy access to complete medical records

The inability of medical providers to share data has been called the interoperability crisis” and has a harmful impact on care. Patients’ data often exists as PDF files connected to e-mails, which in turn are only reachable through “patient portals,” which can be incomplete and not open to all providers.

Now, according to Lydia Ramsey in Business Insider, Apple is about to introduce on iPhone apps that will let users take advantage of the company’s health app to access their medical records. Data will be kept under the title of “health records” inside the health app. Any medical providers the user sees, including out of town, emergency room and walk-in physicians, will have access to it and will be included in it. According to Ramsey, “iPhone users can track everything from allergies to vaccines to lab results.” Completeness of records is the aim.

"Our goal is to help consumers live a better day. We’ve worked closely with the health community to create an experience everyone has wanted for years — to view medical records easily and securely right on your iPhone," said Jeff Williams, chief operating officer at Apple.

The data Apple will organize includes lab test results, prescriptions and allergy lists: literally everything about one’s health. Apple would thus be centralizing health care data in the same way it has already centralized music storage with iTunes. "If Apple is serious about this, it would be a big f---ing deal," said Farzad Mostashari, former national coordinator of health information technology for the Department of Health and Human Services and now the founder of a start-up in the medical records field.

Initially, Apple will offer the service to patients of twelve hospitals and group practices in nine states, including facilities in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Apple has received assistance from two professional groups interested in health data management, the Argonaut Project, which seeks uniform standards for patient records, and the Carin Alliance, which advocates for patient control of records.

With over a billion devices of various kinds now in use, the company is well positioned to succeed in an effort of this kind. According to Micky Tripathi, president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative and a health IT expert, "At any given time, only about 10 to 15 percent of patients care about this stuff. Managing health information tends to be top of mind only for those who are chronically ill or obsessed with their health. If any company can figure out engagement, it's Apple."

Others have attempted to offer such a service before. Google considered and rejected doing so in 2011. Epic Systems has a health data feature, MyChart, available now.

According to Christina Farr of CNBC, “Such a move would represent a deviation in strategy from Apple's previous efforts in health care, the people said, which have focused on fitness and wellness. Apple's HealthKit, for instance, is primarily used to store things like step counting and sleep. There's also a feature called ‘health records,’ which includes the option to import documents that include summaries of care, but that is a limited snapshot of medical information.”