Patients can now use Apple's medical records app at 300 US hospitals

Apple on Thursday announced that patients who receive care at nearly 40 health systems, representing about 300 hospitals, can now access their medical records from their iPhones.

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Apple expands pilot

The announcement marks the expansion of a pilot Apple launched in January to test a new iPhone feature that permits users to automatically download, store, and share parts of their medical records. The feature is part of iOS 11.3 beta via the Health application, where users can select the health record section and add a health care provider. Users then can connect with Apple's software system, which sends data from participating providers to the user as it becomes available.

The medical information patients can access and share through the feature includes data on users' allergies, medical conditions, lab test results, medication regimens, procedures, vaccinations, and vital signs. The data are encrypted, stored locally on a user's phone, and protected by the user's iPhone passcode. Apple will not have access to the information unless a user opts to share the data with the company.

Apple is expanding the pilot to all iPhone users with iOS 11.3 and 39 health systems—up from 12 systems that originally participated in the pilot. Below are the 39 participating health systems broken down by U.S. regions.

Midwest:

  • Cerner Healthe Clinic;
  • CoxHealth;
  • Mosaic Life Care;
  • Nebraska Methodist Health System;
  • OhioHealth;
  • Rush University Medical Center;
  • Southwest General Health Center;
  • Truman Medical Centers; and
  • The University of Chicago Medicine.

Northeast and Mid-Atlantic:

  • AtlantiCare;
  • Geisinger;
  • Johns Hopkins Medicine;
  • LifeBridge Health;
  • NYU Langone Health;
  • Partners HealthCare;
  • Penn Medicine;
  • Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals;
  • Valley Medical Group P.C.; and
  • Yale New Haven Health and Yale Medicine.

South:

  • Adventist Health System;
  • BayCare Health System;
  • The Duke University Health System;
  • MedStar Health;
  • Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare;
  • Mission Health;
  • Ochsner Health System;
  • Ortho Virginia;
  • TSAOG Orthopaedics;
  • UNC Health Care;
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center; and
  • WVU Medicine.

West:

  • Cedars-Sinai;
  • Dignity Health;
  • Eisenhower Health;
  • Providence St. Joseph Health;
  • Scripps Health;
  • Stanford Medicine;
  • UC Irvine Health; and
  • UC San Diego Health.

Expansion marks significant step for US health system

According to CNBC, Apple's move comes in response to calls from physicians, patient advocates, and policymakers over the past few decades to change how health information is delivered to patients. Providers historically have maintained ownership of patient data, with patients having to visit individual provider practices and hospitals to request copies of their medical records. In some states, patients must pay a fee for the copies.

Granting patients immediate access to their medical records can help to facilitate meaningful discussions with their physicians and give patients an opportunity to more easily change physicians, CNBC reports.

Robert Harrington, cardiologist and chair of the Department of Medicine at Stanford, said the iPhone feature serves "an important maneuver for patient empowerment and the way the world needs to be." He said, "Any time you can put information in patients' and doctors' hands and allow there to be more informed decision making, that is the best of all."

Paul Testa, chief medical information officer at NYU Langone, called the Apple feature "an incredible first step to being able to have the patient take possession of their own information" that "highlights where we're going to end up."

Andy Crowder, CIO at Scripps Health, said, "Apple has long been a leader in increasing consumer access to personal health information, and Scripps is excited to be part of this new initiative." He continued, "This announcement is the latest example of how Scripps is expanding its patient-centered focus by providing more options for patients to access their medical data in a safe and secure way, whenever and wherever they want" (Farr, CNBC, 3/29; Spitzer, Becker's IT & CIO Report, 3/29; Comstock, Healthcare IT News, 3/29; Baum, MedCity News, 3/29; Apple release, 3/29).

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