In January, Apple previewed an iOS feature that would allow consumers to access their electronic health records (EHRs) on their phones – teasing what could be a game-changer for both patient engagement and healthcare software development. If successful, the technology giant’s open approach to health information sharing will address a decades-old point of frustration for both patients and providers (i.e. transparency and connectivity in healthcare). It will simultaneously make it easier for application developers to do what they do best (i.e. create powerful apps that delight customers, rather than spinning their wheels chasing records).
So, what positions Apple for success where others, like Google and Microsoft, have failed? A few things.
1. Apple has committed to an open API standard for healthcare records.
Specifically, the Argonaut Project specification of the HL7 Fast Health Interoperability Resources. By encouraging this one common (and open) path forward, the company is making it possible for practices, clinics, and hospitals to participate with little extra effort, and it is motivating other platform companies to move forward similarly, rather than pursuing proprietary systems.
2. There are millions of iPhone users around the world to fuel the success of Apple’s open standard.
As more and more healthcare delivery systems take advantage of their approach, massive amounts of health data will be aggregated and the pace of progress will accelerate in epic ways. Think about it: Every time a provider’s EHR system delivers health data in accordance with Apple’s open API standard, that same connection will be available to any app developer – even those building for the Android ecosystem!
3. The era of the healthcare consumer is here.
While it’s historically been difficult to engage consumers in their healthcare, times are changing quickly, thanks to the rise in high-deductible health plans and, in turn, out-of-pocket costs. (Between 2006 and 2015, the average deductible for employees with employer-sponsored insurance grew by more than 120%!) Now more than ever, consumers want to play an active role in decisions regarding their health and healthcare – and they’re looking to technology (technology that fits into their normal device use processes) to make it happen.
Will Apple indeed be successful in its efforts? Only time will tell, but with a list of pilot program participants that includes world-renowned leaders in the healthcare delivery space like Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles), Johns Hopkins Medicine (Baltimore), Rush University Medical Center (Chicago), and Ochsner Health System (New Orleans), among others, things are off to a strong start. We’ll all just need to stay tuned.
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