Apple Wants Patients to See Their Medical Records on Their iPhones

FEBRUARY 26, 2018
How much do you love your iPhone? Or, how much do you love your smartphone overall? Could you imagine a day without it? It's a serious question, as we are steadily moving as a society with the expectation that such devices fulfill a role as a mandatory tool to guide us one way or another. But what part do they take in our health?
 
The segment of digital health is rapidly growing. With multiple apps available to help you with health and wellbeing, and with medical purposes as well, it's not hard to see them as a tool to help manage our health. With that being the case, Apple is making the move that their new iOS (11.3 beta at the current time) will play a pivotal role as a record keeper of our health for the future.1 In January, Apple announced that they want users of their devices to not only view their medical data on their phones but share it across the spectrum of health care.
 
This means your doctor and health networks will be able to access and update your medical records, and you can add in data as well with other apps or devices of your own. In a way, this is a rising vision of what health care is becoming. Overall, hospitalization rates are down nationally, and most hospital networks are merging due to the issues of reimbursement and profitability. On the flipside, most medical problems and chronic disease management are moving to the outpatient setting. We are seeing this with medical interventions that used to take days of recovery in the hospital (birth, surgeries) being managed in the patient home using home medical services. That relies on a spectrum of data to be managed and monitored. But even other chronic conditions (diabetes, hypertension) can now be controlled remotely and leverage telemedicine services instead of merely going to a clinic for a face-to-face conversation that may not have been necessary. 

Apple recognizes this. They also see that the health data fragmentation is plaguing health care at large, and having users/patients keep a central database in the palm of their hands is empowering and necessary to keep records straight. At this time, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Cedars-Sinai, and Penn Medicine are some larger institutions looking to make this available to their patients. The success of this program will determine if others jump on board.
 
That's not to say this has been tried before. and Microsoft have been attempting similar offerings in the previous decade. However, the argument could be made they were too early, that the technology and societal adaptation weren't ready to grasp it either, but now is the time and Apple is in a position to make a move. 
 
Personally, one aspect that I feel will be beneficial for pharmacists will be the medication reconciliation process. If iOS users have a central database of all their health records and medications and vaccinations, it offers us the opportunity to be better informed by patients on what types of medications they are on. Also, it may pave the way that if pharmacists want to ask patients more directed questions regarding labs or comorbidities, they could share them with us at the point in time since they will have their phones and data on them. But the missing link from all of these companies involved are the pharmacies themselves. If CVS, Walgreens, Walmart or others start getting in on this, it may help pharmacists contribute to the medication reconciliation process and allow us to get better access to data to provide to medical recommendations and verification process more objectively.

Reference

1. Apple announces effortless solution bringing health records to iPhone [newsroom]. Apple. January 24, 2018. Available at: https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2018/01/apple-announces-effortless-solution-bringing-health-records-to-iPhone/
 


Timothy Aungst, PharmD
Timothy Dy Aungst, PharmD, is an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at MCPHS University. He graduated from Wilkes University Nesbitt School of Pharmacy and completed a PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency at St. Luke's University Hospital, and then a Clinical Geriatric Fellowship at MCPHS University. He is passionate about the rise of technology in health care and its application to pharmacy. He has published primarily on the role of mobile technology and mHealth, and made multiple national and international presentations on those topics. He blogs at TheDigitalApothecary.com, and you can find him on Twitter @TDAungst.
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