Apple allows users to access their health records

Apple accelerates doctor-to-patient approach with the new feature within its Health app

At the end of January, Apple announced the integration of a new function which will allow users to access their health records from multiple providers within the existing Health app.

A new Health Records section which will bring together individual’s medical data from different hospitals and clinics in new iOS 11.3 is an exciting reflection of Apple’s attitude to design solutions for better patient-oriented health care. But are there any pitfalls to lessen this excitement?


The electronic healthcare data storage and privacy in the US is regulated by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 established by the US Department of Health and Human Services. It demands that all hospitals follow the Meaningful Use standards which require that every hospital should have its own electronic medical record database which must have a portal for each patient. For the patient, it means that if she receives care from 10 providers, she would have 10 portals in which she should log in to access data. Also, it makes more difficult sharing data between different providers. Apple attempts to bring together data from multiple providers to make easy personal medical data access for its users.

Personal medical data access will be available in the existing iPhone's health app within the health record section. A user will need to add his health provider, and after that, he will be able to connect to databases and upload the data into the service. Patients will get a notification if new information becomes available. The medical information available will include allergies, clinical vitals, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, and procedures. Also, the section will contain a list of all the user’s medical providers.

The implementation is based on the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources which is a standard for data formats and elements and an application programming interface for the electronic healthcare records.

Data safety is one of the largest concerns laid on this feature. Apple is not always able to provide proper security of its services as it was proven by notorious celebrities’ iCloud hack in 2014. Moreover, a WikiLeaks statement indicates that CIA might exploit Apple security holes to gather information about the US citizens.

According to the company though, the data are encrypted and stored locally on the device so they do not pass through the Apple services. If willing, the user can choose to backup information on the iCloud, but this is optional. Considering this, the only way to steal data is the physical access to the device in case the backup option is turned off. In the user prefers rather have a backup, there is a 2-factor authentication option which makes impossible to access the service without the physical access to a linked device even in case the scoundrel has the login and password.

On 7 of February, Apple has released the Beta 2 version of the iOS 11.3. Although the definitive release date is yet to be announced, the Apple has given a general "this spring" frame.

Sources:
1. Apple Newsroom. (2018). Apple announces solution bringing health records to iPhone. [online] Available at: https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2018/01/apple-announces-effortless-solution-bringing-health-records-to-iPhone/ [Accessed 11 Feb. 2018].
2. FHIR Release 3 (STU). (2018). FHIR Overview. [online] Available at: https://www.hl7.org/fhir/overview.html [Accessed 11 Feb. 2018].
3. Forbes.com. (2018). Forbes Welcome. [online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2017/03/09/julian-assange-cia-spying-american-citizens-apple-google-help/#96af63c30a15 [Accessed 11 Feb. 2018].
4. Fpc.gov. (2018). Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (HITECH) | Federal Privacy Council. [online] Available at: https://www.fpc.gov/health-information-technology-for-economic-and-clinical-health-act-of-2009-hitech/ [Accessed 11 Feb. 2018].

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