A new health app from Apple that will be coming in September was revealed today at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco that will allow wearable devices to sync with a patient’s health records at their doctor’s office. HealthKit will allow all kinds of medical information to be organized in one platform. In a press release, Apple said that the Health app will gather information the user chooses from their various fitness devices and health apps to provide a “clear and current overview in one place.”
The new app can collect such data as calories burned, heart rate, cholesterol, and heart rate, putting it all in one place to give a current overview of the user’s health. It can also collect data through digital wearables such as Fitbit, leaving the door open for a potential iWatch release this fall. Apple says that Healthkit can allow developers to access health data with their apps as well, so that, for instance, the user can have the data from their blood pressure app automatically shared with their doctor. Apple’s HealthKit and Health app will be available with the release of iOS8.
One of the key questions is whether the healthcare community will participate. In this case, Apple got a major player in the medical field on board early. They have been working with the Mayo Clinic on their health platform for at least five years. Mayo marketing medical director Dr. John Wald said Apple moved slowly while working on the project, making sure everything along the way made sense. According to Wald, Mayo Clinic sees HealthKit as a marketing tool. They hope to use their own health app, which will be able to access the HealthKit cloud repository to pull personal health information as a way of developing relationships with consumers before they are sick.
Wald says that at this time there is no link between any doctor’s electronic health record (EHR) and Apple’s HealthKit, but he says the connection will be active by next fall between the Mayo EHR and the HealthKit database. He says that their EHR can already capture fitness and health data from the Mayo app.
Also working with Apple on a relationship with the HealthKit database is Epic, the largest EHR developer, who was present today at WWDC. Epic already integrates EHR programs between hospitals and large medical clinics, and is a major player in the medical information technology world.
Although Apple has tried to keep major players such as Mayo and Epic in on the Health and HealthKit development process, the question still remains as to whether doctors will use it, even if the data could flow directly into their EHR. Wald is convinced that physicians will get on board, as it would make their lives easier by keeping their patients healthy. Keeping patients healthy saves doctors money too, as increasing incentives are offered by insurance companies and other payers to keep patients out of the hospital.
The Health app would look similar to Passbook, identifying various stats through different cards, which would allow the user to customize the stats they want tracked and how the data is presented. In addition to data flowing out of the Health app and into the doctor’s EHR, it would be able to advise patients of wellness plans that their own doctors have set up. Patients and doctors would be able to have constant interaction in real time. The question remains, however, whether and when physicians will actually start to benefit from it.
It is yet to be determined whether the company will “HealthKit Certify” fitness and clinical devices, many of which could wind up connecting to HealthKit in the cloud. At this point Apple has given only a sneak peek at the Health app and it remains to be seen whether or not doctors will use it to sync their records with the HealthKit platform.
By Beth A. Balen