Apple, EHR vendors get down to business

HealthKit integrations offer new avenues for health data
By Mike Miliard
01:50 PM

Despite an early stumble out of the gate, some blue chip EHR vendors have begun their collaborations with Apple's HealthKit platform.

The newest iPhone operating system was released Sept. 17, but the hotly anticipated HealthKit technology wasn't part of it. A coding snafu discovered in Apple's new wellness platform has developers in Cupertino, Calif., rushing to fix it.

By October, that much-discussed piece of iOS 8 was ready for prime time, and fitness developers app developers that had long been tailoring their technologies to connect with the HealthKit platform, were ready to enable consumers to feed data quantifying exercise, diet and sleep patterns directly into the Health app for easy aggregation.

Epic was ready, too. The Verona, Wis.-based electronic health record developer, which usually tends to keeps its cards close to the vest, had started dropping hints about its planned integration in September. Epic President Carl Dvorak offered some details about just how HealthKit might transcend its role as a mere consumer device data repository, and confirmed that Epic's personal health record will have a big role to play.

"Apple's HealthKit has tremendous potential to help close the gap between consumer collected data and data collected in traditional healthcare settings," Dvorak told VentureBeat. "The Epic customer community, which provides care to over 170 million patients a year, will be able to use HealthKit through Epic's MyChart application – the most used patient portal in the U.S."

Epic spokesman Brian Spranger offered still more detail, describing to VentureBeat's Mark Sullivan how a device such as the WiThings Wi-Fi-enabled scale could "notify HealthKit that it has a new weight and ask HealthKit to store that weight in the database on the iPhone."

From there, "If the patient has given permission for the MyChart app on their phone to know about that data, HealthKit 'wakes up' the MyChart app and tells it there's new data," according to Spranger. "The MyChart app on the phone then transmits that weight back to the EpicCare EHR system where it can be used appropriately as part of the patient's medical care."

Epic won't be the only EHR vendor to leverage HealthKit: Cerner and athenahealth also say they'll develop apps that interface with the platform. Both are working with Apple to develop patient-facing tools that will make use of data aggregated via HealthKit.

Abbe Don, vice president of user experience at athenahealth's mobility subsidiary Epocrates, told Reuters that the cloud-based EHR company will test a "proof of concept" app with its client Hudson Headwaters Health Network: "There is an awful lot we can do with HealthKit," she said.

Meanwhile, Cerner Senior Director Brian Carter, who focuses on personal and population health, said the plan is for clinical caregivers to access data from HealthKit, with patients' consent, via Cerner technology. The first step will be focused on "smaller organizations," he told Reuters, with an eye toward proving HealthKit's value in managing chronic conditions.