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Health Systems Boost Patient Data Access with Apple Health Records

Henry Ford Health System will integrate Apple Health Records into its technology suite to improve patient data access.

apple health records patient data access

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Henry Ford Health System has joined the ranks of healthcare providers offering patient data access through the Apple Health Records app.

The app allows patients to view their own medical records through an iPhone system. Patients may also send their health data to providers and other users of their choosing, as well as integrate data from third-party apps that have adopted the Apple Health Records API.

The Health Records app will make it easier for patients to review their health information, including lab results, immunizations lists, allergies, prescriptions, and other data, all in one view. Henry Ford Health System leaders aim to make it easier for patients to engage with their own care and become empowered through better data access.

“With all of the digital advancements being made, we know that it's more important than ever to offer our patients a variety of choices to access their health information easily and conveniently,” Paul Browne, Henry Ford's senior vice president and chief information officer, said in a statement. “Health Records helps us do just that for many of our mobile users.”

Patients can register for the system using the app right on their own iPhones. Once patients have opened the Health Records app, they may select Henry Ford Health System, enter their patient portal log-in information, and begin to authorize third-party apps to integrate all of their other health data.

READ MORE: Cleveland Clinic Taps Apple Health Records for Patient Portal Data

This tool helps patients overcome some of the hurdles associated with health IT and patient data access. Currently, patients manage multiple sources for their own health data. Between mHealth apps and patient portals for primary care, specialists, and potentially hospital stays, patients have several options to digitally access information.

Health Records allows all of that data to live within the same app, so long as the healthcare organizations and other apps have opted into the tool.

Allowing patients to aggregate all of this data in one place will help during emergency situations, according to Henry Ford chief medical information officer David Allard, MD.

“When patients come to an emergency department and have quick access to all their personal health data, especially medications and allergies, the emergency team can provide prompt medical care which is critical in life-saving situations,” added David Allard, M.D., Henry Ford's chief medical information officer. “Providing patients easy access to their personal health data whenever and wherever they need it makes for better healthcare.”

Henry Ford Health System joins a number of other organizations that have adopted the Apple Health Records tool since its unveiling earlier this year.

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

At the time Apple announced Health Records’ launch, 39 organizations were beta testing the tool. Since then, major health systems including Henry Ford and the Cleveland Clinic have announced Health Records integration into their digital footprints.

This tool is a part of many organizations’ efforts to empower patients through seamless data access, 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.”

It may be too early to tell whether the app will live up to expectations, experts agree. The Health Records app is still not yet ubiquitous, meaning it is difficult to assess whether it is effective at putting all patient records in one place.

But the outlook is promising, most health IT professionals have said. In a May 2018 KLAS report, experts overwhelmingly endorsed the tool. Specifically, the app’s early adopters have expressed satisfaction, the KLAS survey revealed.

READ MORE: Outlook Is Promising for Apple Health Records, Patient Data Access

“The revelation created a stir for at least a few reasons,” the report authors posited. “(1) Apple is a consumer-oriented healthcare outsider; (2) Apple is attempting to make inroads where peers Google and Microsoft have failed; and (3) the feature has the potential to impact millions of patients given the iPhone’s broad customer base.”

Two-thirds of respondents said the new technology will drive patient empowerment. Another 58 percent said it could alleviate interoperability problems, 50 percent noted it could speed up innovation in the health IT space, 33 percent said it could facilitate consumer app development, and 25 percent said it could open healthcare to outside vendors.

Ultimately, Apple’s success will depend on higher adoption numbers, the KLAS report said.

“In order to reach more than one-third of these, Apple will need to expand to EMR vendors beyond their current partners (athenahealth, Cerner, and Epic),” the report concluded. “In terms of capabilities, participants say that being able to upload data back into the EMR will be vital and that eventually Health Records’ data model will need to support more detailed data than the C-CDA data elements handled today.”

As more organizations such as Henry Ford begin to adopt Apple Health Records, it becomes more likely that the healthcare industry will feel its impacts. With the tool becoming more pervasive, industry leaders will better be able to determine its effects on patient engagement and provider workflows.

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