Apple wants to own the interface between you and your doctor

Apple wwdc21 ios15 health app messages sharing 06072021

This week Apple revealed a mix of health features that at first glance seem a bit all over the place. It added a brand new approach to measure mobility well being and introduced that iOS 15, due this fall, will let customers of its Well being app ship a abstract of their knowledge to medical doctors that’s viewable inside their digital well being document. Sufferers can even give you the option to share their Well being app knowledge with associates and household.

All these updates could seem minor, however they’re consultant of a bigger story: Apple more and more wants to function an interface between sufferers and their medical doctors. Whereas Apple has not all the time succeeded in creating well being merchandise, the business remains to be probably to welcome it. Healthcare suppliers need extra methods to have interaction with sufferers exterior their workplaces and regulators need sufferers to have simpler entry to their own well being knowledge.

Apple’s Well being app can already pull in affected person well being knowledge from an enormous and rising record of healthcare suppliers in the U.S., however the new model of the Well being app will probably be in a position to ship a abstract of day by day well being knowledge again to medical doctors. This replace might put the Well being app at the middle of sufferers’ ongoing conversations with their medical doctors. Sufferers will probably be in a position to simply ship details about their consuming and train habits over to their physicians—the place it may be considered inside their digital well being document, making it simply readable by their medical doctors—in addition to to associates and household. To protect some privateness, and to make it extra digestible, it is going to seem as a part of a abstract of tendencies and well being occasions, fairly than particular person well being entries.

This new doctor-sharing functionality is being supported by a number of digital well being document firms, together with Cerner, the second-largest such firm in the U.S. Notably absent from the record is Epic, the largest well being document firm in the nation and the one most cautious of Apple’s ascendance in healthcare.


Epic has its own well being app for amassing and sharing affected person knowledge referred to as MyChart. The app is a part of the firm’s growth exterior of the hospital and into the arms of sufferers. MyChart already integrates with some Apple merchandise: For example, it could actually learn knowledge from the Apple Well being app and Watch. However it’s not but clear the firm is prepared to share affected person knowledge again to Apple.

[Photo: Apple]

Epic has been preventing the market and regulatory forces making affected person knowledge extra accessible throughout a widening spectrum of apps. Final 12 months, as the Workplace of the Nationwide Coordinator for Well being Info Know-how (ONC) was finalizing the trivia surrounding the 2016 Cures Act—which says sufferers ought to give you the option entry, change, and use their own well being knowledge “with out particular effort” by means of digital means—Epic cajoled 60 hospital systems into signing a letter opposing the new guidelines. The priority specified by the letter is that affected person knowledge privateness could also be in danger underneath the new guidelines.

In response, Seema Verma, then the administrator of the Heart for Medicare and Medicaid Companies, referred to as out the signees for attempting to maintain onto profitable affected person knowledge underneath the guise of defending affected person privateness. “The disingenuous efforts by sure personal actors to use privateness as a pretext for holding affected person knowledge hostage is a humiliation to the business,” she stated at the Centers for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight’s Industry Day.

Whereas the Well being Insurance coverage Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 protects affected person medical information, there was concern that well being info within cellular apps falls right into a authorized gray space. However ONC has been responsive to this problem, creating pointers on how cellular apps can and want to be HIPAA compliant. In the end, it applied the new guidelines, paving the approach for well being knowledge to extra simply movement to a bevy of recent well being apps.

Docs, sufferers, and apps

On this more and more open panorama, the alternative to own the relationship between sufferers and medical doctors is immense. Docs have realized that they lose the means to assist sufferers as quickly as the affected person leaves their workplaces. Sufferers affected by continual situations resembling diabetes, obstructive pulmonary illness, or weight problems, want to comply with pretty regimented well being plans involving treatment, train, and diet regiments. To achieve sufferers exterior of the clinic, medical doctors are trying to apps, wearables, and different digital instruments.

Apple has leaned into this enviornment by offering developer kits—ResearchKit, HealthKit, and CareKit—that assist medical doctors and others to develop apps to this finish. Whereas Apple might have its own client well being knowledge repository, it’s additionally enabling third-party apps which have the potential to have a huge impact on the healthcare panorama. It’s additionally utilizing these numerous frameworks to market itself as a facilitator of knowledge sharing, fairly than an organization that’s perceived to be conserving well being knowledge boxed right into a single platform. Given the new guidelines, all firms in healthcare have to make knowledge accessible. However Apple’s positioning as an organization that wants to assist open up well being knowledge might ingratiate it with builders and medical doctors designing the subsequent wave of well being apps.

At Apple’s Worldwide Builders Convention (WWDC) on Monday, Apple showcased one in all the apps constructed on its APIs: Corrie. Developed by medical doctors at Johns Hopkins Medical Heart, Corrie provides sufferers who’ve skilled a coronary heart assault a set of day by day duties to full so as to keep wholesome after they’ve left the hospital. It reminds them to take medicines, outlines trackable train targets, and presents dietary recommendation. It additionally integrates with the Apple Watch, so sufferers can log their steps and different train.


Corrie additionally gives a affected person’s doctor with entry to their knowledge. Seth Martin, chief medical officer of Corrie and a heart specialist at Johns Hopkins, says that this makes sufferers need to do higher as a result of they know somebody is watching (a phenomenon often known as the Hawthorne Effect). Earlier than Johns Hopkins developed this app, he says, cardiologists would ship sufferers residence with a stack of papers outlining post-hospital care. “Papers will be tremendous complicated and—even when they’re initially understood—the place do they find yourself? The truck of your automotive?” says Martin. In distinction, an app provides sufferers a approach to comply with a doctor’s instruction that’s trackable and shareable.

Notably, Corrie’s performance might have been constructed for MyChart, however Martin thought that utilizing Apple’s APIs would make it extra accessible to a broader variety of sufferers, particularly these whose well being information should not in Epic’s system.

The app, which has been round since 2016, has seen success amongst its customers. Martin says that sufferers who use Corrie have a 52% decrease danger of being readmitted to a hospital 30 days after their final hospital discharge. In creating the app, he says he and his group had been delicate not to overload sufferers with too many duties and knowledge monitoring. “The hope is to encourage them,” says Martin. He says for that reason he’s additionally enthusiastic about Apple’s new health applications, which he thinks might complement a medical app like Corrie.

As well as to developer APIs, the Well being app, and the Apple Watch, Apple has additionally been supporting analysis which will inform the way forward for healthcare. Throughout WWDC, Apple introduced the iPhone can now decide how “regular” an individual is whereas strolling. The stability function determines an individual’s propensity for taking a tough fall based mostly on an current danger evaluation check referred to as STEADI. This work builds on its mobility options, launched final 12 months, which assess the size of steps and asymmetry. This newest function was developed by means of Apple’s mobility research. It’s one other instance of how Apple is attempting to form care and the affected person expertise.

Apple has not all the time gotten its well being merchandise proper. Docs complain, for example, that the Apple Watch coronary heart arrhythmia detection function is simply too susceptible to false positives. However the Apple Watch and Apple Well being can nonetheless give medical doctors perception into combination affected person habits knowledge in a approach which may be helpful for monitoring their total well being progress—and finally shaping it. If Apple can convey its modern consumer experiences to patient-level well being apps in a approach that medical doctors recognize, then it will likely be a formidable participant in the well being tech business. And with the new ONC guidelines in impact, Apple might have few obstacles conserving it from getting forward.