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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.9017
    JPY
    USD
    102.66
    GBP
    USD
    0.7443
    CAD
    USD
    1.2990
    INR
    USD
    67.600

    Rates may not be current.