Apple aims to broaden the reach of mobile healthcare with its HealthKit, a tool that is intended to place health data, such as blood pressure, weight, and pulse, at consumers’ — and their health providers’ — fingertips.
According to an article by Christina Farr published Tuesday on Reuters.com, Apple is working with health providers at Johns Hopkins and Cleveland Clinic, among others, to develop what the company hopes will be a “lynch pin in a broader push into mobile healthcare.”
Thousands of third-party healthcare software tools, apps, and medical devices currently collect user health data, but they are decentralized and unconnected. Apple’s proposed goal is to centralize the data and make it readily available for consumers and medical professionals alike.
In addition to empowering individual consumers to better manage their health, “Apple also hopes physicians will use this data to better monitor patients between visits — with the patient’s consent — so the doctors can make better diagnostic and treatment decisions,” Farr explains.
While Apple has said any personal health information stored on the iCloud would be encrypted, any time an individual’s identifiable, protected health information (PHI) is being shared, the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) must be taken into account.
Former Chief Privacy Officer for the Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare IT (ONC), Joy Pritts, believes Apple will likely need to re-determine its responsibility to safeguard data with each new partnership.
“It is really difficult for consumers to know if their health information is protected by HIPAA because it’s so dependent on the specific facts,” Pritts said.
In addition to broadening Apple’s footprint, the company also says it hopes that HealthKit will help encourage developers to focus on innovation in mobile health.
“Apple has engaged with some of the most important players in this space,” says Brian Gardner, a mobile research and development group leader with Kaiser Permanente. “Platforms like HealthKit are infusing the market with a lot of new ideas and making it easier for creative people to build for health care.”
Apple’s HealthKit is expected to launch with the iPhone 6 in September.