Exclusive: Apple prepares Healthkit rollout amid tangled regulatory web

Tue Aug 12, 2014 11:35am EDT
 
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By Christina Farr

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc has been discussing how its "HealthKit" service will work with health providers at Mount Sinai, the Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins as well as with Allscripts, a competitor to electronic health records provider Epic Systems, people familiar with the discussions said.

While the talks may not amount to anything concrete, they underscore how Apple is intent on making health data, such as blood pressure, pulse and weight, available for consumers and health providers to view in one place.

Currently, this data is being collected by thousands of third-party health care software applications and medical devices, but it isn't centrally stored. Apple also hopes physicians will use this data to better monitor patients between visits – with the patient's consent — so the doctors can make better diagnostic and treatment decisions.

Apple has not divulged much specific detail on HealthKit, which is expected to be incorporated into the iPhone 6 come September. But Apple intends HealthKit to become a lynchpin in a broader push into mobile healthcare -- a fertile field that rivals Google and Samsung are also exploring.

The iPhone maker has previously disclosed partnerships with Nike Inc, Epic, and the prestigious Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic, which boasts a suite of mobile apps. Mayo is reportedly testing a service to flag patients when results from apps and devices are abnormal, with follow-up information and treatment recommendations.

Dozens of major health systems that use Epic's software will soon be able to integrate health and fitness data from HealthKit into Epic's personal health record, called MyChart, according to a person briefed by Apple. Kaiser Permanente is currently piloting a number of mobile apps that leverage HealthKit, two people have said, and is expected to reach out to Apple to discuss a more formal partnership.  

"Apple is going into this space with a data play," said Forrester Research's health care analyst Skip Snow. "They want to be a hub of health data."

But some implementations with HealthKit may be a challenge due to a web of privacy and regulatory requirements and many decades-old IT systems, said Morgan Reed, executive director of ACT, a Washington-based organization that represents mobile app developers.   Continued...

 
The Apple logo is pictured inside the newly opened Omotesando Apple store at a shopping district in Tokyo June 26, 2014.  REUTERS/Yuya Shino