Dr. David Blumenthal: Why Apple's medical records pact with Geisinger, Dignity, others could disrupt healthcare

David Blumenthal, MD, president of the Commonwealth Fund and the former national coordinator for health IT during the Obama administration, noted Apple's recent partnership with several healthcare organizations, including San Francisco-based Dignity Health and Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger Health System, "could herald truly disruptive change in the U.S. healthcare system."

In a recent op-ed for the Harvard Business Review, Dr. Blumenthal discussed Apple's decision in January to integrate patients' EMR data into its Health app, as well as the company's subsequent medical records partnership with at least 12 health systems nationwide. The partnership, Dr. Blumenthal noted, has the potential to empower patients like never before by "liquifying" patients' electronic healthcare data and allowing them to pilot their own healthcare journey and share their health records with whomever they choose.

While several prominent technology companies, including Google and Microsoft, previously attempted a similar feat, Dr. Blumenthal points to the massive growth in available health data and systems' willingness to now share that information.

"Health systems were reluctant to share what data existed, seeing it as a valuable proprietary asset. The technology for giving outside entities access to electronic records kept by hospitals and doctors was underdeveloped. And EHR vendors were uninterested in promoting such access because the demand was weak and data sharing could spur competition from other vendors," Dr. Blumenthal wrote. "A world in which patients have ready access to their own electronic data with the help of facilitators like Apple creates almost unfathomable opportunities to improve healthcare and health."

However, to make such a venture successful, more health systems and physicians must engage in initiatives similar to Apple's — a move many hospitals may be hesitant to make. Allowing patients to take charge of their own health records invariably makes those records more susceptible to hacking, creating more issues for the patients, their individual providers, and the hospitals those providers may be affiliated with, Dr. Blumenthal wrote.

"The announcement of this collaboration between leading American providers of health and information technology services likely signals a new era in health and medicine. The partnership and its results will not solve all our healthcare problems. But they could really shake things up. And that is what the U.S. health system needs," he wrote.

To access Dr. Blumenthal's op-ed, click here.

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