Hospitals’ HealthKit Trials Highlight Apple’s Healthcare Ambitions

Source: Apple

More details have emerged about how two major U.S. hospitals will be taking advantage of the patient-monitoring capabilities afforded by Apple’s HealthKit health data platform. Apple first mentioned several hospitals’ use of HealthKit-connected health apps when it announced iOS 8 at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June. With a user’s permission, the HealthKit data platform allows disparate health-related apps to share data with each other to provide a more comprehensive portrait of a person’s overall health.

At the time, Apple only highlighted the involvement of the renowned Mayo Clinic. However, alongside the three new hardware products that Apple announced at its media event last week, the California-based company also said that Duke Medicine and Stanford Children’s Health/Stanford Medicine would be using HealthKit-powered iOS 8 apps to monitor patient data. Apple’s iOS 8 will be publicly released on Wednesday.

Now Reuters has uncovered new details about the two major trials Stanford University Hospital and Duke University doctors are undertaking. According to Reuters, Stanford University Hospital is setting up a pilot program that will allow doctors to track the glucose levels of young patients with diabetes.

Stanford Children’s chief medical information officer, Christopher Longhurst, told Reuters that patients were being provided with an iPod touch that they will use to monitor their glucose levels. The actual glucose measurements will be supplied by a medical blood sugar monitoring device made by DexCom. DexCom’s device uses a sensor inserted under the skin to provide continuous glucose level data to an associated health app, such as Epic’s MyChart iOS app.

According to Stanford Children’s Health physician Rajiv Kumar, the pilot program currently only has two participants, reports Reuters. However, Longhurst anticipated that the program would expand rapidly if there were no complications. Meanwhile, Duke University is working on its own pilot program that will use similar methods to remotely keep track of various medical data from patients who live at home but have chronic conditions like cancer and heart disease.

The advantage of using apps that are plugged into HealthKit is that doctors will be able to quickly and easily access patients’ latest medical data and take appropriate actions to prevent problems before they occur. Medical information like glucose levels are typically reported via phone and fax, which is far less efficient and more prone to error. “This could eliminate the hassle of getting data from patients, who want to give it to us,” Duke University doctor and mobile strategy director Ricky Bloomfield said to Reuters. “HealthKit removes some of the error from patients’ manually entering their data.”

So what does this mean for Apple? Besides improving the level of care for patients, Apple’s HealthKit data platform could emerge as a major component of the increasingly computerized healthcare market. According to DexCom’s Jorge Valdes, the company is currently in discussions with Apple, Stanford, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about integrating its devices with HealthKit, reports Reuters.

While it’s unknown what the FDA will require from each of the parties before it grants approval, data security and privacy are likely to be major concerns. Stolen celebrity photos that recently surfaced on the Internet highlighted many consumers’ concerns about the security of their data stored on Apple’s iCloud. However, Apple may have been preemptively addressed those concerns when it posted its App Store developer review guidelines for HealthKit earlier this month.

The guidelines for HealthKit apps include rules that forbid storing users’ health information in iCloud or sharing user data with third parties without the user’s consent. Assuming that Apple can alleviate any concerns about medical data security and privacy, there is every reason to believe that HealthKit could soon become an important bridge between the healthcare industry and mobile health apps.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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