Anyone who has upgraded to IOS8 or an iPhone 6 may have noticed the appearance of a new little app called HealthKit. Considering the number of health apps that get shoved in our faces (looking at you, Nike), many of you may be inclined to delete it without a second thought. But here’s the thing – it’s not like every other health app. Why else would a forward-thinking company like Apple be willing to make it standard functionality on its latest products? This leads us to wonder whether the HealthKit platform might just have what it takes to garner mass appeal and long-term staying power.
What is HealthKit?
HealthKit is a platform for managing health. What distinguishes it from other health apps is its power to aggregate data from a variety of other apps, such as Lark, MyFitnessPal, SleepTracker, and WebMD. The ability to store various data elements (daily vitals, exercise patterns, nutrition logs, etc.) in one centralized location will make it much easier for users to get a comprehensive snapshot of their health. Additionally, users can enter in pertinent medical information such as allergies, medications, histories, and emergency contacts to streamline care in the case of a medical emergency.
Even more impressive is what Apple is attempting to do with this data. Apple has partnered with a number of popular EHR vendors, including Epic, Cerner, and athenahealth, to interface data directly into their systems.
Why does this matter?
For several reasons:
- This is one-stop shopping. HealthKit allows fitness techies to continue to use their “best of breed” preferred apps for day-to-day health tracking, yet reap the benefits of having all of this information stored in one spot.
- It’s cheap and efficient. HealthKit itself is free, as are many of the apps it integrates with. The fact that it’s on an iPhone makes it easily accessible and resolves past issues of carrying around multiple bulky devices or tools.
- It’s garnering major attention. The EHR interface has been successful at Mayo Clinic, Duke Medicine, and Stanford Medicine, among other leading healthcare institutions. The potential impact this could have on a provider’s ability to make better, more informed medical decisions tailored to a patient’s individual needs is tremendous.
- It’s trailblazing. Few other companies have been able to deliver solid integration between EHR vendors. If Apple can forge the path to interoperability, even on this small scale, other companies could use HealthKit as a foundation for larger interoperability solutions.
- It’s learned from others. HealthKit bypasses the demand for duplicative manual data entry that has hindered platforms like Google Health and Microsoft Health.
If Apple can find a way to work through the initial bugs and user privacy concerns, this will be a major disruptive innovation and something healthcare organizations need to pay attention to.