Will Apple’s Health Records Feature Change Medicine?

March 8, 2018 - 4 minutes read

When you first get a new phone, you probably spend quite a bit of time browsing the app store to fill it with old favorites as well as take a gander at new apps that you probably weren’t aware of. One thing you probably don’t look for right away is a method for accessing your electronic health records.

Apple recently revealed details of an iOS feature that would let you do exactly this. And while it doesn’t exactly generate the pandemonium that other new tech offerings may, this new capability could change MedTech development and the healthcare industry in some substantial ways.

A Convoluted Practice of the Past

It wasn’t so long ago when a patient’s health record was segmented and spread across multiple locations, depending on their medical and life history. This old way of doing things was needlessly complex. Patients had to play a game of “connect the dots” by logging into each care provider’s website or calling them up to get the pieces of information pertaining to their own medical history.

Of course, this glaring conundrum has already garnered its fair share of attempted disruptions. Almost a decade ago, both Microsoft and Google tried to address this problem with free services Microsoft HealthVault and Google Health, respectively. While both services did help consumers consolidate their own health data, they never really achieved widespread adoption. In retrospect, this has been chalked up to the simple fact that smartphones and mobile apps had not become as ubiquitous as they are now.

Apple’s Healthcare Accommodations

So what makes Apple so different from the past attempts? If it had to be summed up in one word, it would be this: methodology. The San Francisco developer has taken great strides to streamline their approach for easier integration with the modern medical community.

Their consolidated health record takes the FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources), the standard for electronic health record transferring, into account. In particular, Apple adhered to the Argonaut Project specification of the FHIR by keeping their API open so that it would be extremely simple for care providers to participate in the program.

Bigger Implications for MedTech

A plethora of famous hospitals like Cedars-Sinai, Penn Medicine, and Johns Hopkins Medicine have already agreed to partake in the beta version. Patients of participating medical institutions will be able to receive notifications and up-to-date information on an array of information like allergies, immunizations, chronic conditions, lab results, medications, and many other categories.

While only part of a patient’s medical record will be available on the iPhone (for now), this endeavor by Apple could be the start of a new one-stop shop for care providers, patients, and developers to visit for pertinent information. Whether doctors and patients are discussing their medical history or software engineers are trying to improve upon medical technology, this could cut down immense amounts of time usually spent having to track down all of this available information across multiple platforms.

With the advent of the smartphone and mobile apps long behind it, Apple’s attempt at streamlining medical records access could succeed where Microsoft’s and Google’s couldn’t. In a way, it could also accelerate the medical field to a healthier future, which is something we all can agree is something worth striving towards.

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