What's new with Apple's Heath Records?

October 29, 2018: LabCorp adds support for Health Records

Life science medical company LabCorp announced full support for Health Records on iPhone so patients can access their test results right from their device at any time.

LabCorp test results are viewable in the Apple® Health app for LabCorp patients who have a LabCorp Patient™ account and enable integration with the Health Records app. In addition to their LabCorp test results, patients will have information from participating healthcare institutions organized into one view, covering allergies, medical conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and vitals. Patients will receive notifications when their data is updated. Health Records data is encrypted and protected with the user's iPhone passcode, Touch ID or Face ID.

June 4, 2018 - Developers can now create apps using Apple's Heath Records API

Today, in conjunction with the first day this year's Worldwide Developer's Conference in San Jose, Apple announced that it has officially opened the Health Records API to developers. This will allow them to create apps that will empower users to keep a close eye on their health by managing their nutrition, medications, and more. This is just the latest step in Apple's commitment to healthcare innovation.

Apple's Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams shared the rationale behind this move in a statement:

Medical information may be the most important personal information to a consumer, and offering access to Health Records was the first step in empowering them. Now, with the potential of Health Records information paired with HealthKit data, patients are on the path to receiving a holistic view of their health. With the Health Records API open to our incredible community of developers and researchers, consumers can personalize their health needs with the apps they use every day.

An ecosystem of health-related apps based around the Health Records API is slated to be released later on this fall, along with iOS 12 and macOS Mojave. These apps will use an individual's unique health history to help them monitor their health data across key categories, including the following:

  • Medication Tracking: Medisafe is an app for managing medications that will connect with the Health Records feature so you can easily import your prescription list and keep track of what medications you take when. If you like, you can also set pill reminder and receive information relevant to the medications you're taking. What's more, Medisafe will be able to warn you of any problematic drug interactions due to its comprehensive view of your medication list from several hospitals and clinics.
  • Disease Management: According to Apple's announcement, a diabetes app could access a your lab results from your Health Records as well as your diet and exercise details through the existing iOS HealthKit integration, allowing for a more complete picture of you and the best ways to encourage you to stay on track.
  • Nutrition Planning: The Health Records API will allow for the development of an app that offers completely customized nutrition programs based on your blood pressure or cholesterol results.
  • Medical Research: Traditionally, in order to to determine pre-existing conditions in a patient, researchers were required to use "arduous survey questionnaires." This put the burden of remembering the details 100% on you. Now (with your approval, of course), researchers can access your information to "ensure more comprehensive research."

If you're concerned about privacy issues, fear not: as we all know, Apple is a stickler when it comes to protecting its users' personal information. All Health Records data is encrypted on iPhone and protected with your passcode. If you choose to share your health record data with third-party apps you trust, the data will travel directly from HealthKit to the chosen app. It is never sent to Apple's servers.

What is Health Records?

The Health Records feature builds on the original version of HealthKit and was released as a beta with iOS 11.3. Essentially, it allows patients of more than 500 hospitals and other health-related establishments to access their medical information, which is then organized into one easy-to-read view on their iPhone. Users will be able to consolidate medical records from multiple hospitals with information their favorite trusted apps, helping them monitor, manage, and improve their overall health. In addition it makes sharing important information with other care providers you visit much faster and more convenient. Things like prescription information, especially a history of prescriptions, is the kind of thing that would be very useful for someone to have on them instead of just recalling from memory.

Why does Health Records matter?

Your medical information is incredibly important. For those who are very ill or preparing to have surgery, ready access to your medical information is something all of the people working to care for you need in order to do their jobs effectively. But it's 2018 and a lot of medical offices in the US still rely on fax machines to send patient data from one office to another. Those with more modern interfaces frequently run into problems effectively sharing digital forms of medical data with care providers using a different digital system.

Being able to reach for your phone to share details of your last blood test or prescription list with any care provider is incredibly powerful. It makes their job easier, but it also puts you in control of the information. It removes obstacles like calling a busy office or worrying that the information was faxed to the wrong number.

Naturally, the biggest hurdle here is the same hurdle every digital medical record system faces. Doctors, hospitals, clinics, and labs all need to adopt a system that works with Apple Health for any of this to work. But by making those tools available through CareKit and ResearchKit long before Health Records was a part of Apple Health, there's a much greater chance that some users will immediately have at least one provider ready to work with your phone.

Is it safe?

You don't usually walk around all day every day with your full medical profile in your back pocket, so it's not unreasonable to wonder if doing so with an app is a good idea. Keeping that information secure is important, and while your iPhone is already fairly secure thanks to things like passcodes, TouchID, and FaceID (you're using at least one of these, right?) there's some extra security in Apple Health for your Health Records.

According to Apple, Health Records data is encrypted and protected with a passcode. That means this has a layer of security completely separate from your normal unlock and access process. This passcode can't be quickly bypassed with a fingerprint or with your face, you have to purposefully enter in a 4-6 character code to access this information. Additionally, any health information you transfer to your device comes directly from your provider and does not traverse Apple's network. That means Apple is not creating, receiving, maintaining, or transmitting protected health information.

What healthcare providers participate in Health Records?

You can transfer your health records from a multitude of healthcare providers into the Apple Health app. Here is a complete list of them in alphabetical order! We'll add more providers as they're announced.

How can I use the new apps built using the Health Records API?

Unfortunately right now, you can't — these apps won't be released until fall of this year. However, once they're launched, as long as you've got the Health app on your phone and your healthcare institution is registered with Apple, you'll be all set to get started! We'll update this article with more information as we receive it.

Thoughts? Questions?

Still have some burning questions regarding the Health Records API that you need answered? Share them in the comments below and we'll do our best to answer them as we learn more.

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