At the beginning of June, Apple delivered a Health Records API for developers and researchers. The idea behind it is to create an ecosystem of apps that will use the health record data of patients to manage medication, nutrition, illnesses, and more. Wolfram Kerl, CTO at digital healthcare company smartpatient, attended this year’s Apple Worldwide Developer Conference where he engaged in numerous discussions. He believes that the Health Records API has the potential to be a true game changer for both developers and, most importantly, patients, as they will be able to share their medical records from various hospitals with their choice of apps.
MyTherapy, the brainchild of smartpatient, is one such app that will benefit from this functionality. As Europe’s leading medication reminder and health tracker app, it will be one of the first apps to implement the new health-records API. Kerl recently told Computerworld’s Jonny Evans that until recently, healthcare IT and health apps have been largely separate worlds and that with Health Records, “users can pull their health records from the clinical systems of hospitals and clinics that are registered with the service directly to their iPhone. The release of the Health Records API is the next step, allowing developers of third-party apps to access this data. The result will be a new generation of health apps, turning clinical records into actual use cases for end users.”
The overall aim of Apple Health Records is to give patients greater control over and access to their health records, which will empower them to take their health into their own hands and have a better understanding of health matters. By releasing an API for their Health Records app, Apple lets developers of health-related apps incorporate Health Records data without any additional input.
For example, apps, such as MyTherapy, rely on their users to enter their medication and treatment regimen details manually, which can be both a time-consuming and erroneous process. But with Apple Health Records, MyTherapy would be able to retrieve all relevant medical information from its users and then set up the medication reminders automatically for each user. This ensures that all important medical data is recorded correctly as per prescribed instructions, offering a more personalised and tailored experience for the user.
However, what may be concerning for you, the user, is who and what has access to your data. But Apple is quick to provide reassurance, as the company has always been particularly aware of its users’ health data. Kerl says that the Health records API has built-in privacy and “gives users control on what to share and for how long. The data flows directly from the hospital to the user’s phone, with no Apple servers in-between.” Furthermore, your data will be encrypted on your device when you lock your iPhone with Touch ID, Face ID, or a passcode. Regarding external apps, they will only be able to access your data with your full consent. You will also be able to withdraw your consent at any stage. However, it is important that you download apps from the official App Store, as Apple cannot check the security of apps from third-party stores.
Naturally, this is still a work in progress and only users (with an iPhone, of course) enrolled at one of the 50 institutions in the USA working with Apple Health Records can utilise this service. However, more and more hospitals and clinics are registering for this service, meaning that the healthcare industry has a keen interest in this innovative technology. At the moment, Apple has yet to give any indication of when the service will be available in other countries. But one thing is for sure: Apple is at the forefront of both healthcare technology and consumer technology, and there are undoubtedly greater things to come.
For smartphone users in Africa who want to track their health, using a medication management app like MyTherapy can offer valuable support in terms of medication adherence and implementing important lifestyle changes. Recent statistics from Novartis suggest that over the next 15 years, chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease will become the main cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa. It is therefore essential to take control of your health now so that you have a better outcome for tomorrow.
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