What's new with Apple's Heath Records API?

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. For more information, check out our own Russell Holly's in-depth look at Health Records here:

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

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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