Apple-Epic collaboration hits snag

Bug found in HealthKit causes launch delay
By Mike Miliard
11:14 AM
Smartphone with apps

The newest iPhone operating system was released yesterday, but the hotly anticipated HealthKit technology wasn't part of it. Nonetheless, even tight-lipped Epic has begun to offer details about what the platform will look like when the kinks are finally ironed out.

A coding snafu discovered in Apple's new wellness platform has developers in Cupertino, Calif., rushing to fix it – but it could be some time before that much-discussed piece of iOS 8 is ready for prime time.

"We discovered a bug that prevents us from making HealthKit apps available on iOS 8 today," said Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller in a statement on Wednesday.

Apple officials say they hope to address the problem within the next couple weeks: "We're working quickly to have the bug fixed in a software update and have HealthKit apps available by the end of the month."

For an app meant, among other things, to help maximize the salutary effects of jogging, that's an unwelcome stumble.

Fitness developers including Jawbone and Nike are tailoring their technologies to connect with the HealthKit platform, enabling consumers to feed data quantifying exercise, diet and sleep patterns directly into the Health app for easy aggregation.

But there's more planned for the platform, something many have suspected these past few months as word spread of Apple's discussions with major healthcare players such as Mayo Clinic and Epic.

The Verona, Wisc., electronic health record developer usually keeps its cards close to the vest, but this week Epic President Carl Dvorak offered a few more details about just how HealthKit might transcend its role as a mere consumer device data repository, confirming 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," wrote Dvorak in an email to 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."

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