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iOS 15 will give doctors a window into Apple Health app data

With the iOS 15 launch today, some iPhone users will have the option to share data from their Health app directly with their doctors through their electronic medical records. Six health record companies are participating in the initial launch, and some of those companies say that doctors and medical practices on their systems are eager to start using the feature.

People who use the option can use the new sharing function on the Health app to let their doctor see data like their heart rate and time spent exercising, as collected through the Health app. It could help physicians keep a closer eye on metrics that might be relevant to a patient’s health without the patient having to take an extra step to manually share the information.

Electronic health records company Cerner, which controls around a quarter of the records market, is one of the companies in the launch. Right now, any healthcare organizations that use Cerner’s records have to balance time spent implementing new tools against time spent managing COVID-19 surges, Sam Lambson, vice president of interoperability at the company, said in an email to The Verge. But they’re interested in the feature, he says. “Once our client organizations have seen a demo and understand it, the questions are mostly around how quickly they can get it implemented,” Lambson said.

A small number of healthcare groups that use electronic health records through Allscripts, which is also part of the launch, have already been using the feature as part of a test phase, says Tina Joros, the company’s general manager and vice president. They’re able to use it with a select few patients. “They’ve got all of the technology in place, and when it’s available for patients, they can start promoting it out to their patient population,” she says.

One of those test groups is especially excited about the new ability to see patient data from an at-home blood pressure monitor, Joros says. The physicians at that medical practice typically recommend a particular brand of blood pressure cuff to patients who they want to monitor between visits. That cuff already syncs with the Health app. So if patients chose to share the data, the doctors are able to directly track those blood pressure readings instead of relying on patients to share it more manually. “It really helps the data come full circle,” she says.

Daniel Kivatinos, co-founder and chief operating officer of health records company DrChrono, says he’s heard similar feedback from health providers about the Health app feature. “One of our customers, the provider is excited that they’re going to be able to do remote patient monitoring,” he says.

While the data provided by wearable devices and other health apps can be useful, doctors often say they’re worried about information overload. Joros at Allscripts says the layout of the dashboard within Apple’s health record might help make the flood of information less overwhelming. The default is to give a general overview of the trends in a patient’s Health app. Doctors have the option to see more detail but don’t have to. “We had a good reaction both from our client testers and from our internal physician staff,” she says. “Both liked the way that those dashboards were laid out to help reduce that burden.”

DrChrono plans to roll the Health app feature to a first set of initial users before expanding gradually to its full customer base, which includes around 4,000 medical practices. The company can track how often the feature is used, and Kivatinos says it plans to collect data on how many patients end up sharing their Health app information into the health record.

Allscripts plans to collect similar data as well. The company will be able to see exactly how many patients use the feature, Joros says. She’s expecting the usage to gradually ramp up in the same way as the other Apple health records program, which launched in 2018 and lets patients pull data from their health records onto their iPhones. “We have seen the usage consistently go up,” she says.

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