The launch of HealthKit has been bumpy to say the least, with last-minute bugs delaying the anticipated platform release. This launch is highly uncharacteristic of Apple, a company known for obsessing over details and only releasing polished software. It is an early indication that cracking the health IT market is not as easy as some would like to believe. In spite of these delays, tech media outlets have hyped HealthKit far beyond what the company itself has to say about the platform.
The entry of Apple has the potential to significantly alter the interaction between patients and doctors. While many EHR software products have their own patient portals, doctors still find it difficult to monitor their clients remotely or collect reliable data about patient health. Existing apps generally needed users to manually input information such as exercise levels, drug compliance etc. which often led to errors and inconsistent reporting.
On the other hand, there has been an explosion in the number of mobile fitness apps which aim to do everything from track food consumption to even blood sugar levels. But there was no way for doctors to get the information. HealthKit aims to bridge that gap by connecting doctors with health data. Apple hopes that developers will launch health apps running on the HealthKit platform. The data aggregated by such apps can then be directly sent into EDR systems (Epic was a launch partner) with Apple playing the role of gatekeeper.
To be sure HealthKit does have some drawbacks such as being restricted to the latest iOS devices (which leaves out the billions of users on other platforms) and the fact that doctors will have to rely on Apple for access. The company has historically wielded tight controls over its products which means that EDR developers will have to accept whatever terms and conditions are set.
However Apple has a knack for creating markets and HealthKit may be the catalyst for further innovation in the healthcare IT space. Surely it won’t be long before Google, Microsoft and other companies launch similar platforms for their own users and this could be the biggest benefit for the healthcare industry.
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