Hospitals embrace Apple’s HealthKit as wellness data catch-all for patients

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Apple’s HealthKit app may not be the most user-friendly app on the planet, but it’s certainly a big hit with hospitals and healthcare professionals. Fourteen of the 23 big-name hospitals Reuters contacted confirmed that they’re part of Apple’s pilot program, or are in talks to join soon. As part of the program, doctors are using HealthKit to keep tabs on all the data patients collect from their wearables and smart scales.

“Can I interface to every possible device that every patient uses? No. But Apple can.”

HealthKit pieces together all the data collected in wellness apps like MyFitnessPal, smart scales like the Withings Smart Body Analyzer, and wearables like the Jawbone Up, into one app. The app keeps tabs on everything from weight fluctuation and heart rate, to caloric and nutritional intake. While all these metrics may look confusing to the average user, doctors are uniquely positioned to not only understand, but also analyze and translate that data into actions patients can take to improve their well-being.

According to Reuters, healthcare professionals and hospitals are taking to the idea with enthusiasm. Eight of the 17 hospitals on the U.S. News & World Report’s Honor Roll of best hospitals in the country are using HealthKit. Mainly patients with diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, and other chronic health problems are sharing their data with physicians. The goal is to prevent minor, every-day issues from escalating into serious, life-threatening problems that send people to the emergency room. The data should also help limit so-called “repeat admissions,” for which the federal government fines hospitals.

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The Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, which partners with Apple and medical records holder Epic Systems, has been testing how HealthKit can help high-risk patients. Among those who are part of the pilot program are many patients with high blood pressure. Thanks to data collected from blood pressure monitors that sync with the HealthKit app, the hospital’s doctors can now warn patients of risks ahead of time.

“If we had more data, like daily weights, we could give the patient a call before they need to be hospitalized,” Chief Clinical Transformation Officer Dr. Richard Milani told Reuters.

To both Apple and the hospitals involved, high-risk patients are just the tip of the iceberg. Apple says that more than 600 developers are working with HealthKit, and the company hopes to add more app and device partners every day. The more partners Apple gets on its platform, the more appealing it becomes to doctors, because that means patients will be able to gather data from a wider range of devices and apps.

Beth Israel hospital’s chief information officer John Halamka said the fact that HealthKit can collect information from a wide variety of patients’ wearables and smart scales is excellent.

“Can I interface to every possible device that every patient uses? No. But Apple can,” he said.

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