Apple announced that it is launching a personal health record (PHR) feature with iOS 11.3, the beta of which launched Wednesday to users in Apple’s iOS Developer Program. The feature, called Health Records, will collate existing patient-generated data in the Health app with data from a user’s electronic medical record. At launch, Apple is working with 12 hospitals across the country, including Penn Medicine, Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, Johns Hopkins, and Geisinger Health System.
“Our goal is to help consumers live a better day,” Apple COO Jeff Williams said in a statement. “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. By empowering customers to see their overall health, we hope to help consumers better understand their health and help them lead healthier lives.”
Apple: Personal Health Record, How It Works
The feature will use HL7’s FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) specification. Users will be able to see things like allergies, medications, conditions, and immunizations, as well as the sort of things they might check an EHR patient portal for, such as lab results. They can be notified when the hospital updates their data. The data will be encrypted, and users will need to enter a password to view it.
Many of the hospitals participating at launch have a history of digital health innovation. Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, for instance, has been a major user of Apple products for some time. They distribute iPads to patients for entertainment and communications purposes. In addition, they provide a comprehensive patient app for the phone and the Apple Watch.
Apple: Enters Into Electronic Health Records Business
News of Apple entering into the EHR business did not come as a total surprise to the industry. Apple acquired Gliimpse, a small health data startup, in August 2016. Gliimpse was working on a Personal Health Records (PHR) that skirted HIPAA difficulties by having the patient control their own health data. The main product innovation was an AI engine that reads medical records and codes them into a readable language.
Apple: Their Long Term Outlook for Personal Health Records
PHRs have a long and storied history in digital health. Both Google and Microsoft have attempted to create viable PHRs. Google Health’s failure in 2011 was much-discussed and Microsoft’s HealthVault, while still around, has never managed to obtain widespread adoption.
Apple, however, has advantages above other companies to make this PHR module successful. The company’s long-term approach, introducing its successful HealthKit, ResearchKit, and CareKit gives it a robust platform. Moreover, its beta launch with top US hospitals gives it a real shot at making a patient-centered health record work.