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article imageWhat will Apple be doing with healthcare data?

By Tim Sandle     Jun 24, 2018 in Health
This autumn Apple has declared it will allow access to data held on their Health Records API. The data will be made available to third party developers, following patient consent. What can we expect from this opening up of health data?
The Apple decision to allow medical companies, academics and app developers access to health data via the Health Records API was reported by Digital Journal (see: “Apple to open up health record data to third-party iOS apps”). This report highlighted some privacy concerns and looked at some potential data applications. But what else is likely to develop from access to health statistics what could well prove to be millions of people? (that’s assuming a very low opt out rate).
The Apple Health Records feature will enable patients from over 500 hospitals to access medical information from various institutions organized into one view on their iPhone. The changes will allow patients to share medical records from multiple hospitals with trusted apps.
Medical institutions like Johns Hopkins Medicine, Cedars-Sinai, and Penn Medicine have begun testing the new feature with their patients. Apple’s Health Records is based on FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources), which is a digital standard for when it comes to data formats and APIs.
According to CB Insights the “ability to offer patient-information-as-a-service is truly a game changer.” Here developers will have access to the biggest platform built on top of patient data. This is the first time a mass consumer platform, one used by tens of millions of consumers each day, is receiving sanctioned health care observations drawn from the formal institutional health care system.
The CB Insights review picks upon on some of the potential uses for the Apple data. These include medical research, where medics will be able to capture patient medical data and lock it into ResearchKit study apps. This will provide for a more detailed assessment of each participants’ health background.
The digital capture of data obviates the need for traditional data capture methods like running survey questionnaires. This approach also avoids patients needing to remember and recall aspects of their medical conditions. Instead of this, the API will be able to identify potential participants for studies and capture difficult to recall data points.
An area of medical health interest that has been hampered by data limitations is with mental health. The CB Insights digital health 2018 trends report goes into detail about connections between smartphone usage and mental health.
Furthermore, WBUR reports, the Apple move opens up possibilities for a range of innovators to provide decision support, plus advice and recommendations which are based on the transmitted health care data. This is likely to see advances in area like telemedicine and telehealth.
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