Cleveland Clinic associate chief information officer William Morris said the clinical solutions team is experimenting with HealthKit's beta and is providing feedback to Apple. HealthKit and related services could become a means for some technology teams at budget-strapped hospitals to save time and resources, as mobile developers won't have to integrate with dozens of apps and devices like fitness trackers or Glucometers as they have to now, he said.
Kaiser Permanente's Brian Gardner, who leads a research and development group responsible for Kaiser's mobile offerings, said many physicians are thinking about how to leverage patient-generated data from apps and devices.
"Apple has engaged with some of the most important players in this space," said Gardner. "Platforms like HealthKit are infusing the market with a lot of new ideas and making it easier for creative people to build for health care."
Apple's developer relations team has also been working with developers of popular fitness and medical apps, such as Mountain View, California-based iHealth Lab Inc.
Apple has taken pains to ensure that consumers are aware of how data is being collected and stored, said Jim Taschetta, chief marketing officer at iHealth Lab. For instance, an optional toggle will let patients decide if they wish to share data from third-party apps with Apple's main health app. And if patients choose to store sensitive health data in iCloud, it's encrypted when they're in transit and at rest, one Apple employee said.
"It is consumer controlled and can be turned on or off at any time from the app that collects the data from the original source," Taschetta said.
Health developers say Apple will not be immune to the challenges they have faced for many years, starting with safeguarding consumer privacy. And along with physicians and consumers, Apple will have to juggle the requirements of regulators at federal agencies or departments. Digital health accelerator Rock Health estimates that at least half a dozen government offices have a hand in some facet of mobile health.
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HealthKit relies on the ability of users to share data. But depending on how that data is used, its partners – and potentially even Apple - may be subject to the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.
HIPAA protects personally-identifiable health information - such as a medical report or hospital bill - stored or transmitted by a "covered entity," like a care provider or health plan. Patient-generated information from a mobile app, for instance, has to be protected once the data is given to a covered entity or its agent.