What's in store for Apple's HealthKit?

The high-tech giant drops just a few hints
By Tom Sullivan
11:10 AM
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To an industry waiting for more information on Apple’s healthcare intentions, even a few crumbs here and there are too tasty to pass up.

HealthKit has been described at various times as a platform or a service, either or both intended for bringing together health and fitness data. Apple’s deals with EHR maker Epic, the Mayo Clinic and Nike are expected to figure prominently into HealthKit when it becomes available — which industry observers are speculating may happen along with the iPhone 6 arrival next month.

[See also: Apple's new release features Mayo app.]

No word from Apple on timing yet, but Reuters has reported that anonymous sources revealed Apple has held HealthKit discussions with Mount Sinai, the Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins, as well as Epic rival Allscripts

The content of those discussions, however, remains a mystery. It may have been as simple as Apple conducting the sort of due diligence that is de rigueur among software vendors in asking existing and prospective customers for feedback about which features and functionality would entice them to purchase and implement a product.

It’s also tempting, of course, to wonder if Apple might be stoking the partnership fires here with these leading hospitals. CEO Tim Cook, after all, has been on a roll. In addition to the aforementioned deals with Epic and Mayo, Apple inked a landmark alignment that will see IBM resell iPads and iPhones to enterprise customers along with the IBM Mobile First for iOS platform and forthcoming mHealth apps.

And plenty of reports speculate that HealthKit may integrate such information as blood pressure, exercise results, glucose readings, weight or other data points and securely and usefully present that data to caregivers and clinicians — a reality app and device makers struggle with and a potential opportunity for Apple and its partners.

[See also: Apple makes promise of more health bits.]

“Given the fact that there’s HIPAA compliance and other regulatory requirements that need to be addressed, there are challenges of taking consumer-type devices, whether it be Fitbit or others, that have patient information available back into the delivery system so it has value at the point of care,” Dan Pelino, general manager of IBM’s global public sector unit, told mHealth News. “And that starts to unlock a tremendous amount of innovation.”

When Apple originally foretold of HealthKit, one thing was missing: Concrete specifics. Reports that the company is in talks with leading hospitals and EHR makers don't necessarily tell us much more about what HealthKit will look like, but it does suggest that Apple’s target customer might be a little bigger than just individual consumers.

"Apple is going into this space with a data play," Forrester Research healthcare analyst Skip Snow told Reuters. "They want to be a hub of health data."

[See also: My wish list for Apple's HealthKit initiative.]