Apple Centers Health Data Strategy

Apple quietly has been strategizing to expand its growing healthcare business to include the management of digital health records, with the iPhone operating as a central data hub, CNBC reported last week. Apple has been in talks with numerous health industry groups that are involved in setting standards for the storage and sharing of electronic medical records, in a way that would help consumers gain more control over their private medical information, according to the network. The plan appears to be a natural extension of Apple’s recent health industry strategy, which includes its Research Kit, CareKit and HealthKit — platforms that allow developers to create apps that help patients, hospitals and researchers find new ways to collect, manage and deliver health data efficiently and directly.

“This has been an interest point as part of Apple’s strategy in the healthcare vertical for some time,” said Daniel Ruppar, digital health global program director at Frost & Sullivan.

Apple last year acquired Gliimpse, a medical records startup that helped collect data from different platforms and organized the information for patients. Thus far, Apple’s efforts largely have focused on fitness information, but in recent years it has moved into more focused healthcare delivery. For example, the company recently began work on developing sensors that could help diabetic patients manage blood glucose levels.  The challenge for Apple going forward is that it tends to attack new businesses on a global scale, and healthcare data requires dealing with a myriad of regulatory and privacy issues that cannot easily be synchronized across a single platform, Fogg told TechNewsWorld.

Also, the sensitivity of personal health data demands a high level of security and transparency, so that hospitals and patients can feel comfortable allowing that type of information to be controlled by an outside party, he said.

“I would hope that Apple is planning to use the iPhone to securely communicate personal medical information from sensor to a HIPAA-compliant cloud service, and that medical records are only permanently retained in the cloud service,” said Paul Teich, principal analyst at Tirias Research. While temporary secure viewing on an iPhone would be nice, it would be better to have another layer of device security sitting between the attacker and the EMR repository, he told TechNewsWorld.