27 more health systems join Apple Health Records platform

Nearly 40 health systems have made patient records accessible on the iPhone. (Image: Apple)

Two months after Apple launched a beta version of its Health Records platform with a dozen partners, 27 more healthcare providers have jumped on board.

Nearly 40 health systems are now sharing their medical records with patients through the Health Records app on the iPhone, using Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standards to pull data from the EHR, Apple announced on Thursday.

NYU Langone Health, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Adventist Health System and Stanford Medicine are among the new participants. 

While some systems were already working with Apple when the beta version released, others joined after hearing about the new effort. Unlike the beta version of two months ago in which users were required to sign up, patients at the participating health systems can now access their medical records by updating their phone.

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Dignity Health, the 39-hospital health system headquartered in California, was part Apple’s initial launch in January. Shez Partovi, M.D., the system’s chief digital officer and senior vice president of digital innovation says the simplicity of the Health Records app has created a “pretty awesome experience.”

He credits Apple’s entrance into the space, and the app’s initial success, to a combination of factors:  Meaningful Use requirements that mandate organizations make portals available to patients, application programming interface (API) and data exchange standards—including FHIR—that matured over time and, perhaps most importantly, a philosophical shift that emphasizes patient access.

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“What Apple did is say, ‘We want to give you your data,’” Partovi told FierceHealthcare. “Prior attempts by Microsoft and Google—they really wanted to put your data in their cloud.”

Apple, he added, acts more like FedEx by delivering the records from one location to another without hosting any data.

Although it’s still early, the expansion represents an important step for an initiative lauded by health IT experts. Earlier this week Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal, M.D., who led the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT under President Obama, and CareJourney President Aneesh Chopra, Obama’s chief technology officer, wrote an op-ed in Harvard Business Review claiming Apple’s effort “could herald truly disruptive change in the U.S. health care system” by liberating health data and empowering patients.

Others hinted that Apple’s effort could extend beyond hospital EMR data. Former ONC head Farzad Mostashari, M.D. tweeted on Thursday that integrating claims data through BlueButton 2.0 is “imminent.” Jon White, M.D., ONC’s deputy national coordinator, who is also leading interoperability initiatives at CMS, tweeted there would be “more to come.”

Partovi, who has had several calls with other systems to provide “general insights on how to do this” expects more health systems will join the platform. And although he has no inside knowledge, he suspects an Android application is “probably around the corner.”

“I can’t imagine health systems staying out of this,” he said.