On Jan 24 2018, Apple announced a significant update to the Health app with the iOS 11.3 beta, debuting a feature for customers to see their medical records right on their iPhone. The updated Health Records section within the Health app brings together hospitals, clinics and the existing Health apps to make it easy for consumers to see their available medical data from multiple providers whenever they choose.
In the past, patients’ medical records were held in multiple locations, requiring patients to log into each care provider’s website and piece together the information manually. Apple worked with the healthcare community to take a consumer-friendly approach, creating Health Records based on FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources), a standard for transferring electronic medical records.
Now, consumers can have medical information from various institutions organized into one view covering allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and vitals, and will receive notifications when their data is updated. Health Records data is encrypted and protected with the user’s iPhone passcode.
This update Empowers the Patients with Health Records readily accessible via their iPhone and puts the patient at the center of their own care.
At launch, the new Health Records section was available to the patients of the following medical institutions, but this list of participating healthcare institutions has been growing since.
As of March 29th, patients of NYU Langone Health, Stanford Medicine and nearly 40 other health systems representing hundreds of hospitals and clinics can view their medical records right from their iPhone.
An important thing to note is that at this time it’s only a uni-directional data flow from the health care institutions — the hospitals, the medical practices — to the consumer’s personal health record. Data will not flow in the other direction.
Somewhere down the road, patients may be allowed to opt in to pharma communications or share anonymized data about their conditions. If that happens, it could have a substantial impact on patient marketing opportunities available to engage patients and build stronger brand/patient relationships.
KEY TRENDS TO MONITOR:
ANTICIPATED BARRIERS TO WIDE-SCALE ADOPTION:
Several technology companies — including Google (with Google Health) and Microsoft (Microsoft HealthVault)— have tried this in the past, but their efforts failed. The widespread adoption of the Apple Health Records is certainly more likely to succeed now as the market is now than ever before more primed for adoption of such a technology, but we must wait and see how it shapes the market. It seems to be a step in the right direction. Additionally, Apple has the trust of over a hundred million people and has a system that lets consumers share with Apple what they’re doing with the most personal electronic device that they’ve ever used.
MEDIA RELATED IMPLICATIONS FOR PHARMA:
From a media standpoint, successful media campaigns (HCP or Patient) aim to garner deep engagement and build strong brand/audience relationships. Here are a few ways we anticipate this development could impact pharma media campaigns:
Potential opportunities and implications for pharma were discussed in this FiercePharma article.
To summarize, even though this effort by Apple is not a magic switch that will allow everyone access to their health care overnight, in many ways it’s a revolutionary effort to empower patients where they did not have easy access to their own health data for too long. To conclude, this could surely turn out to be a positively disruptive change for the healthcare industry and may finally replace the fax machine in healthcare.