Apple bet big on health care—and these 3 health systems took a bite

Apple has made no secret of its desire to compete in the health care sector, and now several major health systems are leveraging Apple's technologies to improve clinical workflows and engage with patients, Christina Farr writes for Fast Company.

Apple has made several strategic investments in several sectors of the health care industry, including hospitals, at-home care, and medical research. As part of those investments, Apple has developed:

  • ResearchKit, a framework for developing medical research applications;
  • HealthKit, which is designed to make it easier for software developers to gain access to health data;
  • CareKit, which is focused on helping patients with chronic conditions monitor their health and coordinate with providers; and
  • Enterprise sales and support services, including a partnership with IBM.

According to Farr, health systems like Cedars-Sinai Health System, Parkview Medical, and Ochsner Medical Center are increasingly leveraging these tools, as well as Apple's iPads, Watches, and iPhones to deliver new services to clinicians and patients.

The technology in action

For instance, patients at Cedars-Sinai can use an iPad to message their nurses, order magazines, browse medication side effects, review EHR data—or even book hotel rooms for their family. Garry James, 60, who recently stayed at the hospital as he waited for a heart transplant, said the iPad app helped him stay engaged.

In addition, patients at Cedars-Sinai are able to download their medical records through HealthKit and port it to their Apple health app on their smartphone. Such access enables patients to show their medical information to any doctor they visit, even if they leave Cedars-Sinai—a notable upgrade, Farr reports, from when patients had to move their data via a USB drive or CD-Rom.

Apple and IBM: Big blue apples?

At Ochsner, Richard Milani, the system's chief transformation officer, said Ochsner asked its EHR vendor Epic to automatically push lab test results to doctors via their Apple Watches. The new technology enabled providers to immediately check results by glancing at the Watches instead of waiting until they had time to check a computer—a lag that could take "many hours," according to Milani.

In addition, patients at Ochsner can access a store modeled after an Apple store that sells doctor-recommended products such as activity monitors and wireless scales. The goal, according to Farr, is to enable patients to contribute health data to their EHR, and let physicians get a snapshot on how patients are faring after discharge.

And at Parkview, nurses use an app to manage patient medications at the bedside. "To help minimize errors, nurses can scan a patient's wristband to pull up a system on an iPhone that determines if the staff is administering the right medication at the right dose at the right time," Farr reports. Parkview also uses the app to confirm blood type and facilitate secure communications between clinicians.

Executive perspective

Health system executives, as well as app developers, also said Apple has recently made progress selling to the health care market because it's invested in enterprise-level support and worked directly with leaders in the health care industry to understand what they need.

For instance, Parkview Medical CIO Steve Shirley said he and other stakeholders communicated to Apple that its devices were having trouble connecting to hospital's wireless networks. Subsequently, Apple along with network services provider Cisco, issued software updates to ensure critical apps are prioritized on wireless networks. "Ever since then, we have been rock solid in terms of our wireless communications," Shirley says.

Such investments and responsiveness are giving Apple and advantage in the health care market currently, according to Farr. But industry observers say that could change as competitors develop better technology and health care providers become more comfortable with technology (Farr, Fast Company, 3/18).

Why the EHR life cycle is just like raising a child

 Why the EHR life cycle is just like raising a child

A successful EHR system requires budget, resources, and planning—not only before it goes live, but after as well.

In fact, the process of implementing, deploying, maintaining, and optimizing an EHR system is similar to that of raising a child—each stage of the process requiring a unique subset of people to ensure its success. Learn more about the seven stages of the EHR life cycle in this infographic.

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