Can Apple Act as a Go-Between Patients and Healthcare?

April 25, 2018

Apple brings health records to the iPhone. Find out what it means for EHR interoperability and patient engagement.

Apple wants to use its iPhone technology to drive patient data that is housed in different EHRs directly to the patient.

The company has officially unveiled its Apple Health Records function, which allows patients to see medical information from various institutions organized into one view and receive notifications when their data is updated. Patients in 39 health systems can look at their EHR from all participating healthcare organizations assembled in one place on their iPhone.

Denness

“The patient, therefore, has access and control over his or her data and can share it as he or she needs or feels is appropriate,” says Rich Denness, managing director and global healthcare lead at North Highland, a global management consulting firm headquartered in Atlanta. “If it works, it could drive greater utility of EHR-stored data, particularly if it’s able to pull from all patient care points, such as primary care, hospital, out-patient surgical, specialist, and pharmacies.”

The platform adheres to FHIR (Fast Health Interoperability Resources, a standard for transferring electronic medical records) interoperability standards, which is also helpful with regards to the exchange, integration, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information, says Denness.

Health information exchanges (HIEs) have tried to pull together disparate EHR patient data and have not been successful as patient data still predominately lives in silos, according to Denness. “The evolution of different players in healthcare joining together supports the value of data. The industry’s attempt to create interoperability standards and share disparate patient data has also struggled, however, progress is being made,” he says.

GT LaBorde, CEO of Birmingham, AL-based IllumiCare, a point-of-care healthcare information technology company, says Apple’s entry and continued development as another player in EHR interoperability will only accelerate the evolution of the EHR from being a closed system to one that’s data is open for additional uses and innovation.

Data: Key to patient engagement

LaBorde

Data is the key to maintaining patient relationships and delivering more efficient quality care, according to Denness. “It also prepares healthcare providers for a new generation of patient population,” he says. “Apple has the ability to act as an intermediary for most healthcare providers and use existing platforms to bring slower moving players into the 21st century. Apple’s ability to be a good partner is valuable and they proved long ago that people want to use their devices to track and manage activity. Healthcare is no different. Patient choice and greater transparency of healthcare delivery is today’s reality. Apple simplified both, although transparency in healthcare is a much bigger issue that won’t be solved by Apple alone.”

Overall, Apple's traction furthers the notion of patient-centric care, according to LaBorde, who offered these three tips to attract patients: 

  • Share data with patients.

  • Make it easy for patients to access their data.

  • Empower the patient to reduce unnecessary testing and medications. "The hospitals and patients can work together to reduce unnecessary testing and medications," LaBorde says. “Patients may be more educated on what has been done throughout their treatment journey, and as a result, feel more empowered to push back on over-utilization. If they have the results and know what they are, they'll be more likely to speak up and question requests for the same test.”