News / Economy

Apple Prepares Healthkit Rollout

FILE - Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi speaks about the Apple HealthKit app at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, June 2, 2014.
FILE - Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi speaks about the Apple HealthKit app at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, June 2, 2014.
Reuters

Apple 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.

Mobile health care push

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, 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.”

Privacy, regulaltory concerns

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.

“Everybody is knocking on the door,” he said. “But I doubt that HealthKit will merge with all the existing systems.”

Apple declined to comment on upcoming partnerships for HealthKit. An Allscripts spokesperson said it did not publicly discuss contractual or prospective agreements. Mount Sinai and Johns Hopkins' press officers had no information to share at this time.

Cleveland Clinic associate chief information officer William Morris said the clinical solutions team is experimenting with HealthKit's beta and is providing feedback to Apple. HealthKit and related services could become a means for some technology teams at budget-strapped hospitals to save time and resources, as mobile developers won't have to integrate with dozens of apps and devices like fitness trackers or Glucometers as they have to now, he said.

Kaiser Permanente's Brian Gardner, who leads a research and development group responsible for Kaiser's mobile offerings, said many physicians are thinking about how to leverage patient-generated data from apps and devices.

“Apple has engaged with some of the most important players in this space,” said Gardner. “Platforms like HealthKit are infusing the market with a lot of new ideas and making it easier for creative people to build for health care.”

Safeguards

Apple's developer relations team has also been working with developers of popular fitness and medical apps, such as Mountain View, California-based iHealth Lab Inc.

Apple has taken pains to ensure that consumers are aware of how data is being collected and stored, said Jim Taschetta, chief marketing officer at iHealth Lab. For instance, an optional toggle will let patients decide if they wish to share data from third-party apps with Apple's main health app. And if patients choose to store sensitive health data in iCloud, it's encrypted when they're in transit and at rest, one Apple employee said.

“It is consumer controlled and can be turned on or off at any time from the app that collects the data from the original source,” Taschetta said.

Health developers say Apple will not be immune to the challenges they have faced for many years, starting with safeguarding consumer privacy. And along with physicians and consumers, Apple will have to juggle the requirements of regulators at federal agencies or departments. Digital health accelerator Rock Health estimates that at least half a dozen government offices have a hand in some facet of mobile health.

HealthKit relies on the ability of users to share data. But depending on how that data is used, its partners - and potentially even Apple - may be subject to the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.

HIPAA protects personally-identifiable health information - such as a medical report or hospital bill - stored or transmitted by a “covered entity,” like a care provider or health plan. Patient-generated information from a mobile app, for instance, has to be protected once the data is given to a covered entity or its agent.

Joy Pritts, recently-departed chief privacy officer for the Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare IT (ONC), said Apple may need to re-determine its responsibility to safeguard data with each new partnership.

For instance, if Apple and Nike team up to collect running data, neither would be subject to HIPAA, she said. But if Apple gets and stores clinical information on behalf of the Mayo Clinic, both would likely have to abide by HIPAA.

“It is really difficult for consumers to know if their health information is protected by HIPAA because it's so dependent on the specific facts,” Pritts said.

To smooth its path at a time when some other high-profile health-oriented initiatives have run into trouble in Washington - including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's decision to crack down on genetic testing firm 23AndMe - Apple has consulted or hired health experts and attorneys, who are well-versed on privacy and regulatory requirements. Senior officials have paid a visit to key government offices, including the FDA and the ONC. Apple is expected to roll out HealthKit, so that providers - and not Apple -- are responsible for adhering to privacy requirements.

But there's the question of reliability. Joshua Landy, a Toronto-based internal medicine and critical care doctor, said physicians will need to learn over time which apps are useful for clinical purposes and safe to recommend to patients. This problem will grow in coming months with hundreds of new mobile medical apps expected to hit the App Store.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8012
JPY
USD
117.52
GBP
USD
0.6346
CAD
USD
1.1249
INR
USD
61.875

Rates may not be current.