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Patient Records Crucial to Apple Health Strategy, Study Finds

CB Insights’ researchers say the tech giants goal is to take advantage of the gap in the existing third-party developer ecosystem and empower patients with control of their data.

Apple health records

By Jessica Davis

- The personal health records of consumers will be key to Apple’s app, wearable strategies, and services as the tech giant moves into the health and wellness market, according to new research from CB Insights.

The goal is to take advantage of the gap in existing third-party developer ecosystem with Apple building the first open tool for the market, which will mirror its app store ecosystem. Researchers said the company’s strategy is to empower patients to make care decisions and ensure patients have control of their data – including who can have access.

The researchers said EHR vendors and health IT companies building consumer-facing tools are in Apple’s crosshairs.

“These are incumbent types that have historically not prioritized user experience and would potentially lose to Apple if people begin to expect better user experience in their medical care,” the report authors wrote.

“Apple has the device ecosystem, built-in user base, brand, and incentive structure to make healthcare truly patient-centric, they continued. “As the pieces start coming together and Apple starts entering the healthcare market, existing industry giants will have to figure out how to adapt.”

Working in Apple’s favor is its brand. Other healthcare organizations have struggled with customer experience – a critical component as healthcare moves into a more “proactive model,” the researchers explained.

Early last year, the tech giant said it would begin integrating electronic health record data into the iPhone, while opening its API to third-party vendors through HealthKit, a software development tool.

Apple is among a long list of tech vendors pushing for FHIR to become the data exchange standard among healthcare providers and other industry stakeholders. According to the CB Insights report, more than 120 companies have joined Apple’s health record pilot – LabCorp, Intermountain Healthcare and Mount Sinai Health System are among them.

And in 2016, Apple acquired Gliimpse, a personal health record startup, which gives Apple customers a step tracker and calendar that tracks wellness metrics like physical activity, nutrition, and sleep, among other factors.

Apple has made several acquisitions of health IT companies with this vision in mind. In 2015, it launched its ResearchKit platform for medical researchers, designed to let them leverage the iPhone to conduct studies.

“By having a relationship directly with consumers via the iPhone, Apple is able to reduce the friction of signing up for a study, as well as identify eligible candidates using their health record,” the researchers wrote. “Moreover, participants in ResearchKit studies are not geographically constrained and can come from around the world.”

As Apple works to steadily improve the iPhone’s functionality, including the addition of AI functions, the application could power new types of monitoring and diagnostics. For example, Apple added an EcG function to the Apple Watch, and researchers said Apple appears to be focusing on glucose monitoring, and blood pressure, as well.

“Apple is blurring the line between wellness and healthcare, using its position in your pocket to connect the two,” the report authors wrote. “If it can crack the personal health record and patient data platform, it would empower patients to make decisions and give data access to whoever they choose.”

“Apple is also approaching healthcare slowly,” they continued. “The company has achieved success by vertically integrating its experience and product and seems to be approaching healthcare from a similar angle by connecting different parts of a user experience together (device, health record, platform, and potentially services like telemedicine).”

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