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POV - Apple Health Records

Herman Mallhi

VP, Media



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.

  • Johns Hopkins Medicine – Baltimore, Maryland
  • Cedars-Sinai – Los Angeles, California
  • Penn Medicine – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Geisinger Health System – Danville, Pennsylvania
  • UC San Diego Health – San Diego, California
  • UNC Health Care – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Rush University Medical Center – Chicago, Illinois
  • Dignity Health – Arizona, California and Nevada
  • Ochsner Health System – Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
  • MedStar Health – Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia
  • OhioHealth – Columbus, Ohio
  • Cerner Health Clinic – Kansas City, Missouri

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.


  • This update is expected to open the possibility for many new uses. Consumer-oriented third parties will be able to use this data (with patients’ permission) to provide new and useful services that help patients manage their own health and make better health care choices. A significant new application may be in the area of predictive health.
  • HCPs will be able to better engage patients in their own health which could help improve patient outcomes.
  • HCP-Patient conversations may become more informed and deeper as the patients would walk into clinics/hospitals with a better understanding of their historic health data. The “getting to know” conversation will be more accurate and quicker allowing the “in-clinic” conversations to be deeper and more meaningful. For example: With all health data in one place, the patient-HCP conversions will create a unique opportunity to review all past/present health conditions, treatments, allergies and evaluate the risk of any potential drug interactions.


  • With deep access to sensitive healthcare data, effective data protection and privacy concerns are an expected barrier to adoption from the consumer’s end
  • Participation by vast majority of healthcare institutions, given the slow pace of change in medicine relative to other sectors
  • This update by Apple does not reach Android users. According to data from Gartner, in Q1 2017, 86% of smartphones sold worldwide ran on Android. If Apple is going to make personal health records available to consumers, they must make it device agnostic to create real widespread change

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.


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:

  • This update allows pharma marketers to get creative and develop advanced mobile apps targeting patients/caregivers that leverages Apple Health Records to deliver a positive impact on patient experiences and care.
  • Apple Health Records App may not allow for direct in-app advertising, so marketers may not have the ability to serve ads to patients/consumers directly within this interface. Though we could expect that Apple may at some point start suggesting health interventions to patients through the Health Record app.
  • The practice of complementary patient-HCP marketing to drive treatment/brand conversations has taken shape in the last few years and will become even more critical as both audiences start to have access similar health data and deeper treatment conversations. The synchronization of the core brand messages/story and careful alignment of media touchpoints across both audiences will become critical to drive those conversations that each brand strives for.

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.