A new report published today confirrms that Apple has been discussing how its "HealthKit" service will work with health providers at Mount Sinai, the Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins. Apple hasn't divulged the specific details on HealthKit, which is expected to be incorporated into the iPhone 6 come September. Yet Apple intends HealthKit to become a lynchpin in a broader push into mobile healthcare. One of the biggest issues facing Apple's Health app is regulatory requirements in respect to privacy. A new report by Christina Farr that was published earlier today points out some of the issues that lay ahead for Apple on this all-important front.
According to the Farr's report, "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.'"
However, the report notes that "some implementations with HealthKit may be a challenge due to a web of privacy and regulatory requirements and many decades-old IT systems, said Morgan Reed, executive director of ACT, a Washington-based organization that represents mobile app developers.
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.
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."
The report later points out that in order "To smooth its path at a time when some other high-profile health-oriented initiatives have run into trouble in Washington — including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's decision to crack down on genetic testing firm 23andMe -- Apple has consulted or hired health experts and attorneys, who are well-versed on privacy and regulatory requirements. Senior officials have paid a visit to key government offices, including the FDA and the ONC. Apple is expected to roll out HealthKit, so that providers – and not Apple -- are responsible for adhering to privacy requirements. For more on this, see Reuters special report.