One doctor says that if platforms like HealthKit can make patient medical records available virtually anytime and anywhere, it's a very big deal.
Much of the discussion about Apple's HealthKit—at least in the trade press—has focused on how Apple will compete with rivals like Samsung and Microsoft in the race to serve as health data middlemen. What's not being heard, outside of backwaters in the social media space, is how doctors feel about platforms like these. So it's refreshing to see that Forbes recently published an overview by a young doctor, Jae Won Joh, MD, explaining why he thinks HealthKit has "tremendous potential."
According to Dr. Joh, when he first watched the Apple keynote introducing HealthKit, he wasn't that impressed. At first glance, he says, it appeared that Apple was targeting the obsessive trackers of personal health data involved in the "quantified self" movement. "[It] seemed fairly unremarkable, just another way for consumer apps like Nike+ and sleep trackers to output their data into pretty charts," he writes.
But then, as the presentation moved on, things got more interesting, Joh says. As Apple execs explained the technology, it became clear to him that at least in theory, HealthKit could be the basis for a sort of universal EMR that travels easily from one institution to another:
Suddenly, I'm interested. Imagine if with just your phone, you could travel with all of your former imaging studies (e.g. chest x-rays, CT scans). Your verified vaccination records. Your biopsy results. Your list of allergies. Your lab test results from the last 10, 15, 20 years. All the medications and doses you ever been on, for what time period, and why. Your heart rate and blood pressure measurements from every clinic visit you've ever made.
What if all of this was kept in the cloud, with instant access through your phone?
If Apple can bring together all the patient's medical data in the cloud, it could be "revolutionary," Joh says.
Patients will be able to relocate easily, and even if they're sick and have extensive medical records, won't have to battle to pull all the records together on paper and film before moving. When they arrive in the next city, state or country, they'll be able to release those digital records into the new provider's EMR very easily.
Also, patients will be able to transfer from one facility to another smoothly, and once they arrive, easily share the records from the previous facility. The next set of doctors will have the patient's records within minutes and make appropriate treatment decisions, he says, without "drudging through paperwork."
Now, it's important to note that Joh expresses no enthusiasm for (or even interest in) the idea of leveraging patient generated data from wearables or mobile health apps. While editors who cover mHealth and wearables vendors are excited about this possibility, doctors may not be, if Joh's words are any indication.
But if platforms like HealthKit can make patient medical records available virtually anytime and anywhere, it's a very big deal, he says. "If Apple pulls this off with the right partners, they could potentially solve one of the single worst problems in healthcare today: the inability to easily transfer patient records from one care location to another."
Anne Zieger is a veteran journalist who’s been covering the U.S. healthcare scene for over 25 years. She provides “News with a Twist,” combining solid reporting with expert insights and analysis. Her opinions are her own. You can follow Anne on Twitter @annezieger.