At Long Last, Apple Brings Health Records to the iPhone


Apple now allows iPhone users to view medical records in the Health app, a bold move toward cornering the mHealth EHR market. 

Patient centricity comes in all shapes and sizes, from the individual choices that doctors and hospital staff make on a daily basis to large-scale overhauls of existing health infrastructure. With an increasing number of patients expressing a desire for a more streamlined, intuitive consumer experience throughout the healthcare industry, the time is right for medical providers and stakeholders to put patient needs front and center.

For Apple, this unmet patient demand has provided the impetus for one of its newest app updates. In a revamped Health app, users will now have the ability to access electronic health records (EHRs) from any participating institution. While this feature is momentarily limited to a few dozen medical institutions, Apple envisions a future in which accessing personal health data is as easy as opening an email.

Empowering Patients with Interoperable Health Records

Apple’s password-protected and data-encrypted Health app will now collect patient records covering everything from allergies, immunizations, and lab results to vitals, medications, and procedural history. To access their information, patients can enter their user IDs and passwords from participating institutions like they would for corresponding patient portals, without the need for repeated sign-ins. The Health app will automatically pull new information on a weekly basis, although patients can check in more frequently or set notifications for updated data.

In the past, consumers had to navigate the patient portals of multiple hospitals, practices, and clinics in order to access their health records. Even if patients could assemble all of their information in one place, standardization was an added bonus rather than a standard. Apple’s Health app update will give patients a big-picture view of their own well-being, even if they lack medical fluency.

This Health app update may centralize patient data, but what about standardization? Apple's health records will use FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) — a respected protocol for sharing EHRs — to ensure consistent data formats. 

Hinting at a Patient-Driven Healthcare Landscape

Apple’s health record update ties into a larger trend of tech investment in healthcare. While traditional healthcare stakeholders aren’t going anywhere for the time being, Apple, Google, Facebook, and other tech giants are focusing resources toward patient-centric medical innovation. And since the U.S. racks up $3 trillion in annual healthcare spending, this information should come as no surprise – tech companies want a piece of the pie.

Although these technologies won't reach their full potential until a quorum of providers sign on, they tease a future for a healthcare industry that harnesses current devices and digital infrastructure in order to help consumers make informed decisions about their own medical care. If Apple can make their Health app update intuitive and cost-effective for physicians and customers alike, they make just be able to plot the way forward for their innovative peers — and change the healthcare playing field in the process. 

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