- Apple is getting in on the patient data access game with the launch of Health Records, an iPhone app that allows patients to view their own medical records and share those records with their providers.
Health Records, which is an extension of iPhone’s Health app, is expanding from the handful of healthcare organizations who beta tested the app to 39 organizations across the country.
Patient data access is a key component of patient-centered care, Apple said in a blog post announcing the tool. For too long, patients have struggled to access their medical records and have had to lug paper copies of their data to their different providers.
“People hand you all sorts of things these days,” Robert Harrington, MD, cardiologist and Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Stanford, said in the announcement. “More data is almost never bad, but when they show up with paper, how do you summate that?”
Harrington and other medical professionals have called on health records specialists to aggregate all of a patient’s paper medical records, but that task is time-consuming.
Harrington and his patients will benefit from patient data access via iPhone, the announcement contended. Patients from the 39 participating medical institutions will be able to see a protected view of their medical records via their own phone. Patient data will be encrypted and password protected using the patient’s iPhone passcode.
Enabling seamless patient data access will result in better patient-centered care, Harrington said.
“Any time you can put information in patients’ and doctors’ hands and allow there to be more informed decision making, that is the best of all,” he explained.
The shift to Health Records is an essential step in patient empowerment, Harrington added.
Health Records may also enhance emergency department care, according to Paul Testa, MD, CMIO at NYU Langone.
NYU Langone is another healthcare organization adopting Health Records.
Adding patient health data to a patient’s smartphone is one step toward eliminating some of the chaos and challenge when that patient presents in the ED. ED doctors usually don’t know much about the patient they are treating. But offering the patient access to her own medical information and the ability to share that information with her ED physician will enhance care, Testa said.
Healthcare organizations participating in this initial Health Records rollout include hospitals in the Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, and West coast of the United States. Among numerous others, participating organizations include the likes of Geisinger Health System, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Penn Medicine, University of Chicago Medicine, Adventist Health System, Ochsner Health System, Cedars-Sinai, and Stanford Medicine.
Patient access to health data has been a key linchpin in patient engagement strategies for some time. Patient portals saw a boom as federal reporting programs such as MACRA and meaningful use called for enhanced patient access to digital information.
However, although most healthcare organizations have patient portal offerings for patients, few patients have adopted the tool and even fewer use it in any sort of meaningful way.
Barriers to patient portal use may include siloed health information. Different organizations or specialists may offer the patient separate portals per health need. This is not conducive to patients managing and owning their own health information and healthcare.
Additionally, browser versions of the patient portal are not as usable as smartphone platforms. Not all patients own a laptop or desktop computer, whereas far more own and use a smartphone.
The Health Records addition to the Health app may help overcome these two barriers. With the patient using the tool as a personal health record, she may be able to aggregate more of her medical records provided her clinicians practice within participating hospitals.
The tool being hosted on a smartphone may increase the number of patients using the tool in a meaningful way. When the patient can easily access her medical records on her own hand-held device, she may be more likely to look at that data and use it to make decisions more frequently.