Apple announced last week that 39 major US health systems are participating in its Apple Health Records platform, which will allow patients at those providers to view their electronic health records (EHRs) on their iPhones.
As Apple noted in its announcement, its Health app uses Health Level 7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) interoperability standard to transfer patient records to a format readable on their own devices. Apple announced a beta program with only 12 provider participants back in January. Any iPhone user that sees a physician in any of the 39 providers, and who updates their device’s operating system to iOS version 11.3, can download the patient-facing side of the program.
All of the data—including lab results, prescribed medications, immunizations, allergies, and conditions being treated—is encrypted and password-protected through each hospital’s portal vendor. Apple, it should be noted, does not host, create, maintain, or receive any of the patient data, nor does it cross any of Apple’s networks, said Shez Partovi, MD, Dignity Health’s chief digital officer and senior vice president of digital transformation, Health Data Management reported.
The launch of the Apple platform was greeted with enthusiasm by health IT leaders, including John Halamka, MD, chief information officer at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Farzad Mostashari, MD, the former National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).
“I have long believed that the best solution to healthcare information exchange privacy and policy challenges is to make patients stewards of their own data. Apple has enabled that to scale using national standards,” Halamaka told Health Data Management.
On Twitter, Mostashari expressed the ease with which he was able to help his mother download her records from several Boston-area systems where she receives care.
“By allowing location services, it seamlessly identifies the available data sources nearest her. (Good example of advantages of platform integration),” Mostashari Tweeted. He described the ease of the process in a following Tweet. “We enter the userid [sic] and password for the hospital (MyChart) portal and we’re in! It’s thrilling to watch the count of synced datapoints spinning upwards.”
In an additional Tweet, Mostashari added that “it’s impressive to see how far back the records go–well before the hospital’s Epic conversion. In this case back to 2002.”
Healthcare systems that have EHRs from the largest vendors have a clear advantage in being able to tap into Apple’s resources. Likewise, patients who don’t use iPhones or aren’t patients at any of the participating health systems will have to continue to get their online records the same way they always have.
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