Personal Health Records on your iPhone

Posted by Angelo Campano from Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide — North America on April 6, 2018

Two months after Apple launched a test version of its Electronic Health Records platform with over 20 partners, 30 more health systems have jumped on board.


50 health systems are now sharing their medical records with patients through the Health Records app on the iPhone, using Interoperability Resources and standards to pull/push data to/from the EHR, Apple announced on March 29th.


NYU Health, UNC, Adventist Health System and Stanford are some of the new health systems. 


So here is what I know, and admittedly it is not as much as I would like. A few years ago, Apple acquired a few small health startup companies. At the time of the acquisitions, the acquired companies had developed a first-of-its-kind central database and API that could connect disparate EHR systems within a health system and organize them under one specific user interdact (within the health system). Present day, there are many companies that do this kind of work in the health systems – specifically companies like Redox and Mulesoft.


When Apple acquired these small health startups, they had them work within that list of selected hospital systems. So, all the systems in the health system are connected via one single-source central database and API. The physician is free to use all the typical EHR functionality in the current provided health system EHR that they have been using, so the interface for the physician won't change. From there, the EHR information by patient is captured in the central database, aggregated, then passed into the Apple environment – which provides the UI and information.


So, the EHR for the physician doesn't change at all, the central database is the core functionality that then populates the Apple Electronic Health Record, and right now it is limited to the health systems they are running beta in—with actual rollout possibly not coming along until 2021.


While some health systems were already working with Apple when the beta version released, others joined after hearing about the new effort. Unlike the beta version of two months ago, in which users were required to sign up, patients at participating health systems can now access their medical records by updating their phone. Also, third-party developers could use EHR data to create virtual assistants similar to Apple’s Siri that would be capable of advising patients about making smart health decisions. These virtual health advisors would be powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and each user’s EHR data.


Apple's long-awaited announcement of the health records tool in January sparked a healthy debate in the digital health community about whether Apple could succeed where others have failed in bringing patients’ EHR data to their own smartphones. Time will tell, but the number of hospitals and clinics participating — which number in the hundreds when you account for the size of some of the participating health systems — bodes well for the success of the experiment.


We’ll be first in line to work with them once the experiment is over.