UC San Diego patients like Apple health records, initial survey finds

Researchers revealed some of the first data collected on how patients use Apple's health records feature in a viewpoint article for JAMA Network.

The article — penned by three UC San Diego Health physicians — described the health system's effort to integrate Apple's health records feature into their patient portal. They sought to determine whether this option would "catalyze systemic change toward meaningful patient-controlled interoperability."  

The authors note an important distinction between personal health records, such as the feature developed by Apple, and the health system's patient portal: Personal health records "are repositories of clinical data managed and maintained by patients" that are "distinct from patient portals [which are] tethered to health system electronic health records."

To take it one step further, the authors described what they call next-generation personal health records. "Next-generation personal health records are promising to expand from collecting and organizing clinical data to providing the patient with streamlined record portability, analytics derived from patient-generated medical data, and access to third-party tools such as cost information," they note.

Cue Apple's health records project.

In early 2018, Apple announced plans to integrate patient health records into the iPhone's Health app as part of the iOS 11.3 beta rollout. The program launched at 12 hospitals, and has since expanded to almost 200 hospitals, health systems and clinics.

To gain insight into patients' attitudes toward the new platform, UC San Diego Health conducted a three-question online survey with 132 patients who had activated the personal health record feature in 2018.

Three survey highlights:

  1. Ninety-six percent of respondents reported they could easily connect their mobile devices to the platform.
  2. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they were satisfied with the feature.
  3. Ninety percent of respondents said the smartphone solution improved their understanding of their own health, facilitated conversations with their clinicians, or improved sharing of personal health information with friends and family.

"As with many other new products and solutions, such enthusiasm is common from early adopters. The platform will need to prove that it is useful, sustainable, scalable and actually improves health outcomes," the authors write. "The key questions are whether this personal health record will improve patient outcomes and lower costs while also increasing quality."

The researchers noted that all data presented in the report is preliminary, and more research into the matter is needed.

To read the complete op-ed in JAMA Network, click here.

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