Healthcare // Mobile & Wireless
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6/3/2014
01:40 PM
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Apple Partners With Epic, Mayo Clinic For HealthKit

Apple affirms its commitment to mobile health by partnering with market-leading hospital software firm and renowned healthcare provider.

15 Apps For Healthy Living
15 Apps For Healthy Living
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Apple made a long-awaited entry into mobile health technology this week, previewing an iOS 8 app called Health, along with a HealthKit cloud API for integrating data from multiple apps and monitoring devices. Both got an instant credibility boost from partnerships with market-leading hospital software company Epic Systems and the prestigious Mayo Clinic.

HealthKit was one of many announcements Apple made Monday, but it had been particularly anticipated by wearable tech and mobile health enthusiasts. Although Apple did not announce its own wearable, the long-rumored iWatch, the company's new mobile health platform could make wearable health devices more useful.

"Apple is making a big move -- their first really big move in healthcare that I'm aware of," said Skip Snow, a senior analyst for healthcare IT at Forrester Research. "Still, a lot of us were expecting a bigger move -- an integrated hardware / software announcement." That announcement is likely still to come, he added.

[Can integration engines help bring unity to healthcare IT? Read Integration Standards Tackle Healthcare's Lack Of Standards.]

For the healthcare industry, the most intriguing aspect of Apple's new technologies is the potential to unite feeds from many health monitors and report back to a hospital's electronic medical records system, making the Apple Health app a tool for patient engagement.

Apple Health app
Apple Health app

Apple's new HealthKit cloud service logs data that's been recorded by apps or gathered from mobile sensors and retrieve the content of that health profile. Apple wants to make its own Health app a convenient entry point to the service, but other apps will also be able to interact with the health profile. Apple released information and sample code for HealthKit developers, including an invitation for hardware developers to discuss how their devices might play into the system.

Mayo already has a successful patient portal and patient app, but the medical center sees its partnership with Apple as a way to cater to consumers with whom it doesn't already have a relationship: through advisory content Mayo will supply for the Apple Health app, said Dr. John Wald, medical director for marketing and public affairs. "The app is really a data repository for Fitbits and a lot of different sources -- probably a lot of different sources yet to be named -- so we can get blood pressure and pulse into one dashboard to be used by the patient," he explained.

A patient monitoring his own blood pressure could have results flagged as abnormal in the Health App, with follow-up recommendations from the Mayo Clinic presented in the context of the app. Part of the point of the Apple partnership will be to find the ideal way to present compact bits of information, suitable for display in a mobile app, with links to further information where appropriate, Wald said. When users of the app require treatment, Mayo also hopes they will consider coming to one of its hospitals if appropriate, he added.

"[The HealthKit API] breaks very exciting ground," Wald said. "For a subspecialty like cardiac, we're monitored on what our 30-day readmission rates are. [This gives us] the ability to have the patient monitored at home with a variety of devices and move the information into the data aggregator, HealthKit. Our doctors can pull the vital numbers they need into the electronic medical record as a permanent catalog, and intervene if they need to. We can keep patients at home or pull them back into the hospital if we need to interact with them sooner."

Code from a HealthKit sample app
Code from a HealthKit sample app

Mayo Clinic is not an Epic customer, so that partnership is not directly relevant to its operations, Wald noted. However, Mayo is looking at the potential of integrating into its own environment, which includes a mix of software from GE and Cerner.

Apple didn't give many details about its work with Epic, other than to acknowledge that the companies are actively working with each other. That fact alone is attention-getting,

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David F. Carr oversees InformationWeek's coverage of government and healthcare IT. He previously led coverage of social business and education technologies and continues to contribute in those areas. He is the editor of Social Collaboration for Dummies (Wiley, Oct. 2013) and ... View Full Bio

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David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
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6/5/2014 | 1:06:13 PM
Re: Health Management Paradigm shifts
WilliamG967,

so when can we expect that? Next week?
WilliamG967
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WilliamG967,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/5/2014 | 12:54:11 PM
Health Management Paradigm shifts
I don't believe Apple or anyone in the growing ecosystem will beat me to the ultimate health hardware--personalized body scaffold for multisensory payloads to scan, image, analyze the whole/total body's skin, hair and nail including the oral cavity. What the industry needs is a 100-YR Health Management Solution that forms the basis for a bloodline or bloodgraph that shifts the paradigm of what the average person during his/her 100-YR lifetime observes, orients, decides and acts with respect to every aspect of his/her health while alive and what's revealed during postmortem disposition of blood relatives. The UI/UX thought to keep the parents then child and possibilty caretaker of that child turned senior citizen addicted to comprehenisive health management (i.e., SMART goal setting, planning, scheduling, monitoring, telemetering, rendering/streaming, archiving and analyzing) is a whole-body, true-color, living avatar of the individual derived from daily body surface scans and images binded to an estimated skeleton (and musculature). 

Basically, everyone becomes a continuous learner of germane health knowledge given their addiction to their digital double that interacts with them graphically, semantically and acoustically. Haptic interfaction is intended too but those interfaces are rarer. There will be a paradigm shift from businesses to individuals making money from their health data. With more consumerization of medical devices and more usage of them in the right configuration during more of the day throughout a 100-YR lifetime, individuals know have the equivalent of interest bearing financial accounts filled with their trusted goals, plans to achieve them, measurements of acting and annotations of the variances. The development of software for governmental, commercial and academic organizations to comput on these data sets to reduce cycle times and increase throughtput of the relationships they seek with the citizenry will become a new industry for profit making. Just think of applying to schools, dating, security investigations, etc. having an upload or permission to query limited element-attribute pairs in your health schema!?! Scary for some and a dream for others. 
debjgraham
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debjgraham,
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6/5/2014 | 7:20:58 AM
Potential - for patients and for providers
As a developer at a hospital/group practice system, this announcment came at a perfect time. We are currently looking at different avenues to achive increased Patient Access and Involvement to improve the Patient Experience. This will be one option that we will explore to see if it will solve a growing problem. It may not be the one-item-cures-all we are hoping to find/buy/develop, but it sure is looking good so far. I will be honest and say I had wished it wasn't Epic who had partnered first with Apple, but maybe that will kickstart GE Healthcare and the other bigger healthcare vendors to start looking at the potential so when I call the support people, they don't act as if this is a foreign concept to them. I do think the early adopters have a chance to get to market first...but we also will be the first to hit all the pot holes in the road to get there. From the presentations I saw about Apple's HelathKit, the apps will need to have explicit permission (from the patient) to access the patient's data, and that is on a data type by data type basis (can I have your age? can I have your weight? can I have your calories burned? that sort of access). So, patients will be in control of what each app that uses the HealthKit can have. And patients are using the app for a specific reason. There is always the option of not using the app. It will be up to the app developers to make sure the patients know what is going to happen to the data (sent to the provider, added to their EMR/EHR, collected for aggregate/anonymous statistics, whatever).

There is potential for great use and there is potential for misuse, just like any new technology. It will be up to the developers to use the new power for the greater good, and by that I do not mean the proffitibility of the organization but the health of the patients! I look forward to seeing where this new development (pun intended) will take me.
ANON1241620824672
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ANON1241620824672,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/4/2014 | 8:58:46 PM
What's the rush?
As an individual involved with healthcare information for the past thirty years, I have seen much.  That said, interoperability has never been achieved to this point regardless of which product platform a hospital, healthcare provider, or health system has chosen to implement.  I too have strong concerns about the data that is to be collected about my health along with just what will they be doing with it! If you have employer-sponsored health coverage, will they be monitoring your sleep patterns, "not getting enough exercise", etc. excluding you from certain benefits and coverage? Will this be a forced acceptance of new technology? One last thought, how long do you believe an individual will take the time to do the inputting of information from their mobile device?

I see "Big Brother" on the horizon.
thetylerhayes
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thetylerhayes,
User Rank: Strategist
6/4/2014 | 6:37:10 PM
Re: HealthKit v. HealthVault
Totally. I think we could talk for hours about all the reasons HealthVault hasn't succeeded (and Google Health didn't succeed) and why the category hasn't thrived. But really the biggest reason is they didn't solve a real pain point—they were neither automatic nor universal nor mobile. They're data warehouses.

^^ I wrote a bit more on this at http://qr.ae/Ikgpm

Not to say that was all their fault. HIPAA and Meaningful Use didn't yet have the teeth they do now, and so hospitals and clinics hadn't adopted EMRs and patient portals as prevalently. The data still is nowhere free today, but those at least are early steps that allow the data to start becoming free.

All of which is a long way to say: this is why I founded Prime. I watched sick friends and family members try to aggregate their health records from all their specialists rather than focus on getting better, which is completely backwards. The mission Google Health and HealthVault set out to accomplish is now possible today. Prime users have imported over 50,000 health records in the last few months, so we've answered that question of whether consumers will want a consolidated health record on their mobile devices: yes, they do.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
6/3/2014 | 5:57:26 PM
Re: HealthKit v. HealthVault
You're right, part of the trick of making this work would be to make sure there is value to the individual in whatever analysis gets done on their data. If they can tell you you're going to have a heart attack before it happens, then that's valuable. If the data gets siphoned off for the benefit of Merck or someone, not so much (although some people would agree to that in return for the occasional Starbucks gift card).
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
6/3/2014 | 4:38:17 PM
Re: HealthKit v. HealthVault
> The most promising space for Apple and other systems software vendors to innovate, Sheaf said, is in the analytics for data gathered from mobile gadgets.

Why would I, as a healthcare consumer, want anyone to have access to my health data?
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
6/3/2014 | 4:06:57 PM
HealthKit v. HealthVault
It strikes me that these mobile health integration platforms share the same broad goals as personal health records platforms like Microsoft HealthVault -- where HealthVault is the most widely used of the bunch but the category as a whole has never thrived. The question is whether consumers will be more interested in keeping a consolidated health record linked to their mobile device. The answer might be yes if more of the data gathering can be automated, rather than something they're expected to type into a web form.
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