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Apple Health’s mHealth Platform Expands to Almost 40 Health Systems

In a sizable expansion of the mHealth platform, almost 40 health systems and hospitals across the country are now allowing patients to access medical data through the Apple Health app on their iPhones.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- In a bid to boost mHealth interoperability across the country, almost 40 US health systems are now allowing patients to access read-only copies of their medical records through the Apple Health app.

Apple officials released an update to the company’s iOS 11.3 system last month, creating a mobile health gateway through which patients of 39 health systems can now see their records on their iPhones. That’s a sizable increase from the 12 providers who beta-tested the program in January.

“The updated Health Records section within the Health app helps consumers see medical information from various institutions organized into one view and receive notifications when their data is updated,” Apple officials announced in a March 29 blog. “This information can help patients better understand their health history, have informed conversations with physicians and family members, and make future decisions.”

Health Records is “is an incredible first step to being able to have the patient take possession of their own information,” Dr. Paul Testa, Chief Medical Information Officer at NYU Langone Health, said in the Apple press release.

All data is encrypted and accessible only with the user’s iPhone passcode. Apple is using HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard in transferring data from the medical record to the mobile device.

READ MORE: Apple’s CareKit Puts mHealth in Consumers’ Hands

Health system executives have pointed out that users must have an active patient portal account to access data.

Among the 12 systems beta-testing the app since January were Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai Health and Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

“Putting the patient at the center of their care by enabling them to direct and control their own health records has been a focus for us at Cedars-Sinai for some time,” Darren Dworkin, Cedars-Sinai’s Chief Information Officer, said in an Apple press release issued in January. “We are thrilled to see Apple taking the lead in this space by enabling access for consumers to their medical information on their iPhones.”

“Streamlining information sharing between patients and their caregivers can go a long way towards making the patient experience a positive one,” added Stephanie Reel, Chief Information Officer at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The program drew mostly positive reviews from several healthcare analysts. In a March commentary in the Harvard Business Review, Commonwealth Fund President and former ONC Chief David Blumenthal, MD, and former US Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, now president of CareJourney, said the platform – if adopted by enough health systems and embraced by consumers “might actually disrupt the industry.

READ MORE: EHR Provider Touts mHealth Access by Apple’s Facial Recognition App

“It could liberate health care data for game-changing new uses, including empowering patients as never before,” they wrote.

Blumenthal and Chopra also saw challenges on the horizon.

Aside from encouraging broad adoption by the US health system, they wrote, Apple and its competitors will need to give consumers a reason to use the mHealth platform – such as creating “nifty consumer-facing apps that solve consumer health-related problems easily and cheaply.” That isn’t being done right now, they said.

Second, they’ll have to pay more attention to security and data privacy. And third, someone will have to keep tabs on third-party companies developing new apps based on that patient data.

“If they offer advice, it needs to be reliable. If they promise a service, they need to deliver,” Blumenthal and Chopra wrote. “Some applications may fall within the existing regulatory authorities of U.S. federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration or the Federal Trade Commission. If not, the question of whether and how to assure that the advice furnished consumers is valid and reliable will certainly arise as a matter of public policy.”

READ MORE: Designing a Mobile Patient Portal to Boost mHealth Engagement

Those healthcare providers now enabling access to health data through Apple Health records are:

  • AtlantiCare
  • Geisinger Health System
  • Johns Hopkins Medicine
  • LifeBridge Health
  • MedStar Health
  • NYU Langone Health
  • Partners HealthCare
  • Penn Medicine
  • Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Inc.
  • Valley Medical Group P.C.
  • Yale New Haven Health and Yale Medicine
  • Cerner Healthe Clinic
  • CoxHealth
  • Mosaic Life Care
  • Nebraska Methodist Health System
  • OhioHealth
  • Rush University Medical Center
  • Southwest General Health Center
  • Truman Medical Centers
  • The University of Chicago Medicine
  • Adventist Health System
  • BayCare Health System
  • The Duke University Health System
  • Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare
  • Mission Health
  • Ochsner Health System
  • Ortho Virginia
  • TSAOG Orthopaedics
  • UNC Health Care
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center
  • WVU Medicine
  • Cedars-Sinai
  • Dignity Health
  • Eisenhower Health
  • Providence St. Joseph Health
  • Scripps Health
  • Stanford Medicine
  • UC Irvine Health
  • UC San Diego Health

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