Why health IT experts think Apple will succeed where Google failed with medical records

Apple's move into patient health records "portends great things for consumers," despite a similar — and unsuccessful — initiative Google launched a decade ago, according to an op-ed Aneesh Chopra, former U.S. chief technology officer, and Dr. Shafiq Rab, CIO of Chicago-based Rush University Medical Center, published in Wired.

Apple unveiled plans to integrate patient health records into its Health app in late January. In the latest iOS 11.3 beta, iPhone Health apps will include a "Health Records" section that enables patients to organize medical information, such as immunizations and lab results, from various institutions.

To develop this project, Apple is working with EHR vendors like Epic, Cerner and athenahealth to better integrate records with the iPhone. The goal, according to Apple officials, is to make it easier for consumers to review medical data from multiple providers.

Mr. Chopra and Dr. Rab noted some people have remained skeptical of Apple's new effort, citing a Jan. 24 The New York Times article that referred to Apple's move as "hardly a new idea." The article noted Google shuttered Google Health, a similar service that aimed to centralize users' personal health data, in 2011.

However, Mr. Chopra and Dr. Rab argued Apple's health record effort will be a "game-changer" because it requires the EHR vendors it works with to use an open application programming interface established through the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources standards framework.

The use of open APIs "affirms there is one common path to open up electronic health records data for developers so they can focus on delighting consumers rather than chasing records" and "encourages other platform companies to build on that path, rather than pursue proprietary systems."

"Once a provider's electronic health records system delivers health data in accordance with the standard, that same connection will be available to any app developer offering consumer applications," the authors wrote. "Imagine if Apple had instead introduced a proprietary system that didn't allow competitors to access data in the same manner from the participating providers."

With this vision in mind, Mr. Chopra and Dr. Rab suggested that Apple's Health app may not be the primary destination patients visit to view their medical information. However, it will likely serve as a "conduit" to a growing marketplace of applications looking to access and provide insight into patient health information.

"When we look back a decade from now to render judgment, it will be the impact Apple Health has had in changing the default setting in health information sharing — from closed to open," they wrote.

To access Mr. Chopra and Dr. Rab's op-ed, click here.

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