When it comes to medical records, experts see the potential for Apple to succeed where others have failed

Tim Cook, Apple CEO
Experts see room for Apple to succeed where Microsoft and Google couldn't when it comes to medical records. (Image: Apple)

Companies like Microsoft and Google have tried and failed to improve patient access to health data, but experts say Apple’s attempt could finally do what other consumer tech giants could not.

One big reason Apple could succeed in its medical records venture is because it is tapping into an open interface and using standardized frameworks for data exchange, Ken Mandl, M.D., who directs the Computational Health Informatics Program at Boston Children's Hospital wrote in an op-ed for CNBC.

RELATED: Apple update brings medical records to the iPhone

At the same, far more providers have adopted EHRs compared to a decade ago when GoogleHealth and Microsoft Health Vault came onto the scene. With a nudge from federal policy and EHR certification standards that emphasize APIs, EHR vendors have begun using standardized interfaces to improve mobile access to medical records 

“Apple will compete on value and customer satisfaction, rather than on an exclusive lock on the data,” Mandl wrote.

Critics point out that Apple's initial effort is limited to 12 medical centers, and providing consumer access on an iPhone—which retails for as much as $999—doesn’t help patients with an Android phone. However, former National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo, M.D. called Apple’s initiative a “game changer,” in part because it will show others what is possible in the current health IT landscape.

Consumer demand has also increased since Google and Microsoft made their own attempts at data exchange, writes KLAS Research’s Jared Jeffrey. An influx of health and fitness apps, the ubiquity of smartphones and rising healthcare costs, make the timing right for Apple’s entrance into healthcare.

At the same time, Joseph Kvedar, M.D., the vice president of Connected Health at Partners Healthcare says the company may bump up against the notion that consumers aren’t necessarily interested in their medical data. Although he believes consumer access to medical records is important, his research shows that access doesn’t necessarily lead to better outcomes. 

But if Apple can make the average patient care about his or her health data, it could spark a massive industry shift.

“Medical record data is not that compelling from a consumer perspective,” Kvedar wrote on cHealthBlog. “If they bring something to the table that inspires consumers to care (and Apple knows how to do this), that could be transformational.”