Apple in talks with top hospitals to become 'hub of health data'

Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins said to be in the running

Apple is in talks with the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, and Mount Sinai Hospital to determine how the hospitals could use its cloud-based health information platform known as "HealthKit," Christina Farr reports for Reuters.

Background: What is HealthKit

In June, Apple unveiled HealthKit, a service that integrates patient health and fitness data from across different providers. "With your permission, each app can use specific information from other apps to provide a more comprehensive way to manage your health and fitness," according to an Apple release.

"For example, your blood pressure app could share its data with a physician app, such as the Mayo Clinic app, so your doctor can provide high-quality guidance and care."

How HealthKit could change health care

With the unveiling, Apple also announced partnerships with electronic health records (EHRs) provider Epic Systems, Mayo Clinic, and a number of other hospitals:

 

  • According to a person briefed by Apple, dozens of health systems that use Epic will be able to integrate patient information from HealthKit into MyChart, Epic's personal health record.
  • Reports suggest Mayo is testing a service that flags patients when data from apps and devices are abnormal.
  • Kaiser Permanente is said to be testing several mobile apps that use HealthKit and the company is expected to discuss a more formal partnership with Apple, according to observers.

Details of the new partnerships

In addition to the potential partnerships with Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, and Mount Sinai Hospital, Apple is in talks with Allscripts, a provider of EHR systems, according to Farr.

However, Apple has not released the details of its partnerships with the hospitals, and officials at Mount Sinai, Johns Hopkins, and Allscripts have declined to comment. Cleveland Clinic associate chief information officer William Morris says the hospital's clinical solutions team is examining the app's beta and is providing Apple with feedback.

The talks could fall apart with no concrete agreement. Regardless, the discussions underscore Apples' intention to make health data available in one place for both consumers and providers, Farr writes.   

"Apple has engaged with some of the most important players in this space," says Kaiser Permanente's Brian Gardner, adding, "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."

Many systems have expressed interest in partnering with Apple, according to Farr. The app could save IT teams at some hospitals money because mobile developers will no longer have to link with multiple apps and devices, such as fitness trackers or glucose monitors.

However, it is unlikely that all interested providers will be able to enter Apple partnerships because of regulatory policy and web privacy issues, says Morgan Reed, the executive director of ACT, which represents mobile app developers.  "Everybody is knocking on the door," Reed sayd, adding, "But I doubt that HealthKit will merge with all the existing systems."

Learn more about health care mobile device usage policies

Joy Pritts, former chief privacy officer for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, says Apple will be subject to different privacy laws based on who they partner with. For instance, if Apple and Nike jointly collect running data, neither entity would be subject to patient privacy laws, but if Apple receives and stores clinical data from a hospital like Mayo, it would have to adhere to HIPAA standards (Farr, Reuters, 8/12).

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Meg Aranow, Senior Research Director

 

The two tech giants recently announced a partnership. Get our take on the news, and find out what it could mean for health care.

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