- Researchers from the University of California San Diego Health, one of the first dozen healthcare organizations to integrate Apple Health Records into its patient portal, have released initial data that show the technology is well received though its impact is unclear.
“Understanding the initial reactions of patients to any new platform is important,” wrote Dameff et al. in a viewpoint published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Friday.
Alongside Brian Clay, MD, and Christopher Longhurst, MD, Christian Dameff, MD, fielded a three-question anonymous survey of the first 425 patients at UC San Diego Health who signed on to the personal health record service in 2018.
Of the 132 responses, 96 percent of respondents indicated they could easily connect their mobile devices to the platform, 78 percent reported satisfaction with using the tool, and 90 percent stated that the service improved their understanding of their own health, their communication with providers, or their sharing of information with family and friend.
Perhaps more telling than these positive findings is the fact that less than half of respondents (48%) reported “improvement with all 3 of these outcomes.”
“As with many other new products and solutions, such enthusiasm is common from early adopters,” the authors observed. “The platform will need to prove that it is useful, sustainable, scalable, and actually improves health outcomes. The key questions are whether this personal health record will improve patient outcomes and lower costs while also increasing quality.”
Unlike previous attempts to support “meaningful patient-controlled interoperability” — namely, Microsoft Health Vault and Google Health — researchers claim today’s market provides the right mix of conditions for Apple Health Records and similar technologies to succeed where others have failed.
For one, app stores have matured considerably.
“When Microsoft introduced HealthVault (2007) and Google launched Google Health (2008) personal health records, the first iPhone and Android devices had just been released. The newly launched Android Market and iOS App Store offered just hundreds of apps to download compared with the millions of apps available today. Thousands of apps on these devices are related to health or fitness. Since that time, smartphones have become the de facto standard for communication for consumers,” they noted.
Secondly, smartphones are ubiquitous.
“Bringing health-related mobile applications to consumers in an already mature smartphone market allows patients to conveniently access new features and functionality with the devices they use every day. By incorporating these features into the core smartphone operating system, device manufacturers can widely disseminate these applications with a simple software update, and could possibly seamlessly push features to millions of patients,” researchers added.
Thirdly and lastly, improved connectivity enables the collection of biometric and “other clinically relevant data” from smartphones and other connected devices.
“Electronic personal health records are now well positioned to facilitate the flow of this potentially powerful clinical data to health care delivery organizations and application developers,” claim Dameff et al. “If these innovations can lead to other uses, such as successful integration of home monitoring data into the electronic health record, clinicians could access multiple types of patient-generated clinical data to better inform care.”
Ultimately, researchers concluded that little more can be made of the findings other than that consumers are keen.
“Although it remains too soon to draw firm conclusions, the continued development of patient-facing health care technologies by well-established technology companies suggests that the digital health care landscape may now be sufficiently mature to foster the broad adoption of personal health records,” they noted. “Whether these technological advances ultimately improve patient outcomes, lower costs, and improve quality remain the most important unanswered questions.”
Clearly, the jury is out on whether patient-facing applications lead to quality improvements in clinical care and health outcomes.