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Cleveland Clinic Taps Apple Health Records for Patient Portal Data

The organization says Apple Health Records will help patients organize their patient portal data alongside health information generated from other sources.

apple health records patient portal data

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- The Cleveland Clinic has joined the ranks of hospitals and health systems across the country to make patient portal data available via the Apple Health Records app.

The move will improve patient access to health data, a key ingredient in patient engagement strategies. Patients who are more knowledgeable about their own unique health data tend to be more engaged in their own care and follow through on their treatment plans.

In making the patient portal available on Health Records, Cleveland Clinic is giving patients more ownership of their own health records. The app functions similarly to a personal health record, letting patients aggregate all of their health data from multiple sources into the single app. Patient portal data can reside in the Health Records app alongside data from a smartwatch and a smartphone app.

Additionally, putting the Cleveland Clinic patient portal on Health Records will allow patients to share their own medical information with relevant stakeholders they see fit. This can include family caregivers as well as other healthcare providers.

Cleveland Clinic made this move to make patient data access simpler and more convenient for patients. After all, patients can still access all of their medical records via their MyChart patient portals.

READ MORE: Apple Releases Health Records API for Patient Data Sharing

However, making the patient portal available via Health Records on a patient iPhone is simpler and more intuitive for patients, according to Cleveland Clinic Medical Director of Digital Health Peter Rasmussen, MD.

“Access to one’s own medical records is a crucial part of the digital transformation taking place in healthcare today, and enhances our relationship with our patients,” said Rasmussen, who is also a neurosurgeon at Cleveland Clinic. “Our goal is to make that access as easy, convenient and useful as possible, placing patients firmly in the center of their own health data.”

Specifically, patients will be able to access their allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures, and vitals all on Health Records. The app will allow patients to organize all of their medical information from multiple sources into one view. Additionally, patients will receive notifications when their medical information is updated.

There are some functions patients will lose when viewing their information via Health Records. The MyChart patient portal allows patients to see their appointments, clinician notes, details about the hospital environment, appointment requests, and prescription refills. Additionally, the patient portal facilitates patient-provider communication through secure direct messaging.

However, it does not need to be a zero-sum situation. Patients can view their health records via the iPhone app or using the patient portal. Patients will not have to chose one platform over the other.

READ MORE: Apple Launches Health Records to Support Patient Data Access

Giving patients this access to their medical information will ideally spark greater patient activation in care, according to Cleveland Clinic Chief Medical Information officer Amy Merlino, MD.

“When patients have direct access to their personal health information, they have the opportunity to live healthier lives,” said Merlino, who is also a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic. “They are able to track important health factors, such as weight or cholesterol or blood sugar, to determine their own personal trends over time. They are able to easily see a combined view of their information from multiple health systems, as well as have the ability to share their healthcare history with other providers.”

Apple announced its Health Records app earlier this year, stating that the app will put patient data in the hands of patients. The tool, which appears to be a form of a personal health record, will help patients stay organized in their healthcare and become more activated in care, the company said.

The move marks the first time in years that a major technology player is tapping into the healthcare market. While some tech giants have failed in their forays into the EHR industry, healthcare stakeholders hold out hope for Apple.

In a May 2018 KLAS report, most of Apple’s early Health Records adopters said they are optimistic about the app.

READ MORE: How Patient Portals Improve Patient Engagement

“Immediately, Health Records is expected to help solve the intractable challenge of interoperability by allowing iPhone users to store their health records on a device that is already omnipresent in their lives,” the KLAS reported noted. “This convenience is expected to increase patient satisfaction and also engender in patients an expanding sense of self-ownership and self-involvement in their own care.”

Despite high hopes, it could still be an uphill battle for Apple Health Records, the KLAS report noted. Apple doesn’t have extensive experience with healthcare data, and given the complexity of health data and government regulations, building a patient-facing engagement tool will be difficult. After all, this is an area in which other technology giants such as Google and Microsoft have not yet succeeded.

But given Apple’s broad customer base and consumer trust, the road is bright for the company. Two-thirds of early adopters think Health Records will improve patient empowerment, and 60 percent said they think positive impacts may become apparent in as little as six months following adoption.

Cleveland Clinic’s interest in Health Records is yet another good sign for Apple, as the leading health system works to set the tone for patient engagement and technology initiatives across the country. Cleveland Clinic joins 39 other health systems and hospitals that have adopted the app.

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