Apple Partners With Epic, Mayo Clinic For HealthKit - InformationWeek

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6/3/2014
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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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6/3/2014 | 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.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
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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 | 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).
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?
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