Hospitals Stepping Up To Embrace Apple’s Health Tech


Apple is making short work of finding hospitals willing to integrate its health IT systems with the Apple HealthKit service. According to a small survey conducted by Reuters, 14 of 23 hospitals contacted are actively working on HealthKit pilot programs. Apple rolled out HealthKit as its first foray into digital health. HealthKit aggregates the personal health data that iPhone users generate within apps or connected fitness devices, and then lets users share that data with other connected health services. Think of it as an easily managed junction point for health data as it is created in one app, and then passed along through HealthKit to support others. For hospitals, this means that iPhone users are now carrying around a rich data set of personal health metrics that can be securely accessed through a free HealthKit API.

In the wake of Apple’s HealthKit announcement, there was general consensus that clinicians would not be interested in looking over people’s food diaries or fitness tracker logs, but as digital health has matured, more clinically relevant data has started making its way into our smartphones. The HealthKit service now connects with wireless scales, glucometers, blood pressure cuffs, medication adherence apps, and more. For health systems moving away from fee-for-service payment models, this data holds tremendous value. Having access to a centralized API to extract health data from a patient’s iPhone means that hospitals can run cheaper and more effective population health programs because they can eliminate interface engine costs, while at the same time they can connect with more end user devices and apps. Apple reports that over 600 apps and devices are now feeding data into HealthKit. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO John Halamka, MD asks, “Can I interface to every possible device that every patient uses? No. But Apple can.”

Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles is tackling the original concern that clinicians would not be interested in reviewing patient-generated medical data by using the HealthKit API to create simplistic visual dashboards that physicians can quickly glance at to glean understanding about the patient’s overall health and disease management challenges.

In New Orleans, Ochsner Medical Center is using HealthKit to track daily weight, a metric it uses to monitor their heart failure patients. The goal of that project is to optimize drug dosages in heart failure patients to prevent fluid retention, and thus reduce readmissions. Chief Clinical Transformation Officer Richard Milani, MD explains, "If we had more data, like daily weights, we could give the patient a call before they need to be hospitalized."

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