Apple’s new Health Records feature reduces friction for app developers

iphone
Apple's latest Health Records announcement is a huge step for medical app developers. (JESHOOTS/pixabay)

Apple is opening its Health Records platform to app developers, laying the groundwork for an “ecosystem” of new digital tools and allowing patients information from their medical records with trusted apps.

The Health Records API, which will be available in iOS 12 this fall, builds on Apple’s entry into the medical records space. More than 500 hospitals are connected to the Health Records app representing 50 health systems, according to an Apple spokesperson. Eleven additional systems have joined the platform since Apple’s last update in March.  

“With the potential of Health Records information paired with HealthKit data, patients are on the path to receiving a holistic view of their health,” Apple’s Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams said in a statement. “With the Health Records API open to our incredible community of developers and researchers, consumers can personalize their health needs with the apps they use every day.”

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Apple's announcement represents a significant step for developers and researchers by allowing patients to share data with trusted sources, including researchers that want to access patient data through ResearchKit.

“What Apple just did is completely standardize [interoperability] and move the center of gravity to the patient’s side,” said Omri Shor, founder, president and CEO of Medisafe, a medication management app that will be available through the Apple’s platform this fall.

RELATED: 27 more health systems join Apple Health Records platform

Medisafe app (Apple)

Although app developers could previously access patient data, connecting with Apple’s Health Records API “really reduced the friction” in accessing patient data, Shor added. That ease of data portability is particularly important for his app, which offers medication reminders and identifies problematic drug interactions.

Shor said his company traditionally spends up to a year working with a health system, signing business associate agreements and undergoing security assessments to get integration up and running, not to mention making technical adjustments to align with the system's EHR.

“What this actually does is for every health system comes on top of this platform, it would allow Medisafe to integrate with them instantaneously,” he told FierceHealthcare.

Morgan Reed, the president of ACT | The App Association, agreed that although patient information was technically available to developers, the process of obtaining it was burdensome and “byzantine.” Apple’s update “smooths the path,” he said.

It also opens up the possibility for more rigorous research on the impact of digital health tools.

“That’s going to be the key to digital medicine is figuring out the effectiveness part,” Reed said. “That ties to reimbursement, that ties to physician use, and it ties to liability.”