The Cupertino-based technology company announced Wednesday that it has selected a dozen health systems from coast to coast to pilot automatic synchronization of patient data, from test results to medications prescribed, within a health application that Apple has been including with every iPhone since 2014.
For now, only those UC San Diego iPhone owners brave enough to load the new 11.3 “beta” version of iOS, the system software that runs all iPhones, will be able to try out the new medical records integration, which will appear as a “health records” section within the pre-existing Health app.
UC San Diego Health, and many local health providers, already offer their own free apps that their patients can download and use to access many aspects of their electronic health records. It’s already possible for patients to make appointments, view results and even message back and forth with their doctors.
But Apple’s project takes things one step further, embedding health records from different medical providers in one central location that is baked right into the bedrock system responsible for all of an iPhone’s main functions, from making phone calls and sending text messages to browsing the web and checking email.
Dr. Christopher Longhurst, chief information officer at UC San Diego Health, said that deeper integration should not only make it quicker for patients to get to the information they want, but it should also open up new opportunities never before possible when data was stuck inside the organization’s health app.
Deep integration, for example, could enable a smartphone to automatically remind its owner to start taking medications that were prescribed by their doctors. And, with a patient’s permission, apps written by other companies could use this data to, say, look for the best deals on each medication or connect a patient with others taking the same medications to chat about side effects.
“It opens up new opportunities to help improve the experience of care that our patients have,” Longhurst said.
Dr. Cheryl Pegus, director of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Clinical Innovation at New York University School of Medicine, said another key difference between what Apple is attempting and the systems that have come before it is that medical records reside on a patient’s device, allowing them to send their information to anyone they choose, even doctors who may use other kinds of medical records systems not directly compatible with the system their main doctor may use.
The challenge, she added, will be designing systems that don’t deluge patients with irrelevant information. Tech companies, she said, have the best shot at separating the signal from the noise.
“The key is to find a way to utilize this health data where someone puts in the right algorithms that really cause the most relevant data to bubble to the top so then you can message it how you want to. If that can happen, that’s going to be a great use,” she said.
Some are very, very ready for as much data as they can get...