Apple is introducing iPhone Health Records to UK and Canada

Health Records are now available to some patients in the UK and Canada with coverage to be extended in the next few months, Apple says.

Apple, iOS, iPhone, Patients, Health, digital health, NHS
Apple / Darko Stojanovic

Apple continues to develop its plans for digital health. It has now begun introducing its innovative Health Records feature within the Health app for iPhone users in the UK and Canada.

Growing support for Health Records

In excess of 500 U.S. institutions comprising 11,000 care locations already support Health Records on the iPhone, which let users securely (and privately) view and store their medical records on their device.

Now, those hospitals have been joined by others within the UK’s Oxford University Hospitals group and Women’s College Hospital in Canada. Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust UK) and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and Mackenzie Health (Canada) also now offer the service.

Making health info useful

Apple developed Health Records to solve real problems with this valuable information. Migrating medical records to digital processes posed multiple problems around privacy protection and regulation, and initial attempts to do so generated a bit of chaos as different systems didn’t interoperate well.

Not only this, but patient medical records have traditionally been held in multiple locations, forcing patients to access each healthcare provider’s patient information services in order to gather their information together.

Health professionals, not surprisingly, were frustrated by all of this.

Health Records provides a direct connection between medical institutions and a patient’s iPhone, aiming to give users a place where they can see the status of all their allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures, and vitals across multiple institutions, and be notified when their data is updated.

How it works

Health Records combines a patient’s medical and personal health data for access from within the Health app. It means they can see their own information in the app, enabling them to make better health decisions while enabling providers to access more accurate personal health and fitness data.

In theory, at least, patients can develop a better understanding of their health and become more engaged in self-care.

The whole notion of electronic health records has been years in the development, and Apple’s biggest contribution here (other than the acquisition of Gliimpse) is to enable otherwise non-compatible systems to share information this way.

In the future, as digital health becomes a deeper marriage between humans and thinking machines, access to data of this kind will become increasingly important components to support predictive healthcare models.

On privacy

Apple’s focus on privacy as a fundamental human right underpins this effort. Health Records protect privacy through use of a direct, encrypted connection between the user’s iPhone and the healthcare organization. All the information is encrypted on the device and protected with the user’s passcode or biometric ID.

What Apple said:

“We designed Health Records on iPhone to empower people to easily view their health records at any time, and we are thrilled to put this feature in the hands of customers in the UK and Canada,” said Kevin Lynch, Apple’s vice president of Technology.

“We believe people should have access to their health information in the most private and secure way, and we have worked hand in hand with healthcare institutions and organizations to put privacy at the center of the patient experience.”

Apple worked with Cerner, Epic, Allscripts, and InterSystems to enable the FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) standards-based integration with the Health app for their UK and Canadian customers. 

What health providers say

Matthew Gould, CEO of NHSX: 

“At NHSX, we are committed to giving patients access to their own records so they can take charge of their healthcare. The launch of Health Records on iPhone in the UK is a positive step and joins a number of initiatives across the NHS to put patients in the driving seat.”

Professor Sir Jonathan Montgomery, NHS:

“Improving our services to patients while protecting their privacy and security is of paramount importance to us,” said Professor Sir Jonathan Montgomery, chair of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and professor of healthcare law at University College London.

Heather McPherson, president and CEO of Women’s College Hospital:

“Women’s College Hospital is proud to be among the first in Canada to offer Health Records on iPhone. As we accelerate our virtual care strategy, we are committed to shaping a health system that people can navigate more effectively. We believe that digital tools like Health Records can contribute to more informed decision making and improve the healthcare experience.” 

Apple says Health Records feature will be made more widely available in the UK and Canada in the coming months.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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