Apple takes another bite of the personal health market by linking up with the nation’s largest integrated health care system.
Tech giant Apple has more up its sleeve than a smartwatch. The company is partnering with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide personal health records to veterans. This summer, the more than 9 million VA users will be able to see their health care records on their iPhone with a few quick clicks.
The Health Records app will provide information on allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and vital signs. It will include statistics from wearables such as the Apple Watch, as well as data from providers who have agreed to share information. After a visit to the VA, the veteran’s health record will update in a mere 24 hours.
Push the Blue ButtonConceived in 2010, the Blue Button concept was “aimed at enabling more direct consumer access to personal health information by adding a ‘Download My Data’ button to VA patient portal systems.” The concept is a collaboration among the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Markle Foundation’s Consumer Engagement Workgroup. The available data combines self-entered statistics, electronic health records and military service information all in one place.
Frustration from the country’s fragmented electronic medical records system is legendary. One doctor said that when a patient with a complex medical history comes under his care, “It’s like opening a book to page 200 and being asked to write page 201.” Patients undergo duplicate procedures or fail to have them at all because their medical histories are missing critical information. Some experts say that health information technology that is both consistent and comprehensive could save billions of dollars annually.
Apple may begin to fill these critical needs, and our nation’s veterans deserve the best the country has to offer.
Apple Health Records Successful
Launched in 2018, Apple Health Records took over where efforts abandoned by Google and Microsoft left off. The VA’s questionable history of patient service may have some wondering if this new push will be as beneficial as hoped. However, an early study was overwhelmingly positive.
More than 90 percent of respondents in an early trial of Apple Health Records at UC San Diego reported that it enhanced information sharing and understanding of their health. As a result, the UC Health system gave Apple Health Records access to all 5 million of its patients.
“By building upon the Veterans Health API, we’re raising the bar in collaborating with private sector organizations to create and deploy innovative digital products for veterans,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said.
The initiative is part of the Blue Button push to allow veterans increased control of their health and medical information. The thinking is that third-party developers can innovate with applications to use the data more effectively.
“When patients have better access to their health information, they have more productive conversations with their physicians,” Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams said in a statement. “By bringing Health Records on iPhone to VA patients, we hope veterans will experience improved health care that will enhance their lives.”
Apple Dominates Health Care
Readers may think that’s fine and dandy, but what about those who don’t have an iPhone or Apple Watch? The VA is reaching out to other potential partners to expand services on other mobile platforms. However, Apple is becoming a dominant force in the health care industry.
Apple stock was recently upgraded by Morgan Stanley, where analysts cited the company’s emergence as “a leader in consumer-centric health care” and the company’s image “as a steward of data privacy.” Apple is moving away from a saturated smartphone market toward a novel health care ecosystem. The investment bank lauded the company’s move toward digital disruption in U.S. health care as Apple’s products can already track a user’s heart rate and administer electrocardiograms. A partnership with medical institutions and Johnson & Johnson is making strides toward stroke prevention, better atrial fibrillation outcomes and medication adherence.
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