Healthcare providers all seek to put patients at the center. Consumer tech brands, meanwhile, have built their reputations—and huge user bases—on offering rich, interactive digital experiences to customers. In doing so, they’ve also raised the bar for other industries.

The Consumer Revolution

Research suggests that patients increasingly want healthcare providers to offer the same kind of intuitive, frictionless digital interactions they get when booking an Airbnb or shopping on Amazon. Demographic changes like the aging of digital natives, alongside the direct entry of Silicon Valley into healthcare, will only accelerate this shift.

The challenge for providers is how to use technology to both empower patients and differentiate themselves from competitors.

78% of patients aren't happy with their current provider's digital experience

50% of patients would leave their current doctor for one with a better digital experience

Apple Health

The launch of the Health app in 2014 represented Apple’s first major foray into the world of health technology. The Health app integrates information from multiple sources, including both data collected directly by the user’s iPhone or Apple Watch (like sleep or exercise data) and clinical health records via HL7’s FHIR (Fast Health Interoperability Resources), an internationally recognized data format standard for electronic health records (EHRs).

Third party apps created with HealthKit, Apple Health’s associated developer API, can then use this data to help give patients a more complete understanding of their health. All personal health data is encrypted and password protected, and users have complete control over which apps have permission to access which kind of data.

In short, the Health app functions as a secure repository for patient health data which is stored on the iPhone itself and controlled by the user.

Apple and Interoperability

In adopting the FHIR open API standard for health records, Apple’s Health app represents a powerful health management tool combining the best of its renowned, experience-driven approach with a commitment to interoperability.

Although EHRs are increasingly pervasive, there has been less progress in making the data they contain liquid; namely, able to flow seamlessly through the health system and across providers alongside the patient.

The pre-Apple Health status quo typically involves a jigsaw-type arrangement where patients have to log into a different system for each different provider and then piece together different types of data themselves to get a complete picture of their health information.

User Set Up

By contrast, a patient using Apple Health can download and view medical records on their phone as easily as they can check their email. The initial set up would involve searching for your provider within the app, and then verifying your identity by logging into the patient portal using OAuth2 (an open standard for granting websites/apps access to information).

This initial digital handshake establishes a trusted link between your provider and the app, which can now securely update your health record in the background and send your phone notifications when any changes are made. After performing this set-up with all providers, the app will aggregate different types of health information like lab results, immunization records, procedures, allergies and vitals from multiple institutions on one screen on your iPhone.

Why Apple Health is Different

Realizing the full potential of EHRs requires more than just increasing data liquidity. Even if patient health data is fully interoperable and easily accessible, simply having it available is not necessarily of much value to patients or clinicians without the widespread adoption of tools to interpret and organize it. Once again Apple Health is in a unique position to succeed in scaling adoption where past attempts have failed. By building on top of the iPhone—a trusted and ubiquitous platform—Apple Health taps into a large pre-existing user base.

189M active iPhones in the US

The adoption of the FHIR open API is also particularly timely as demands for interoperability from patients and legislators alike have led to FHIR’s adoption as the de facto industry standard with support from vendors, healthcare organizations and national healthcare bodies. Moreover, the HealthKit API leverages the App Store ecosystem and its energetic community of developers to provide limitless possibilities for the creation of new tools that will help patients better evaluate their own integrated health data.

Taken together, these developments can ultimately provide patients with what they want the most: a streamlined, intuitive digital health experience facilitated by a familiar and trusted device.

solution architecture design

Get SMART

SMART (Substitutable Medical Applications and Reusable Technologies) is an open platform which sets standards for the negotiation of access to EHR information between an app and the server using OAuth2. Using FHIR, SMART also provides a way to represent the information that is being exchanged and how it can be accessed. It provides a way to launch an external app (like Apple Health) from an EHR/data repository while maintaining the patient and user context, allowing for a seamless user experience.

As such SMART ensures security in front of FHIR interfaces while enabling third-party apps to surface the information contained within the EHR or other health data repository.

How we can help

Apple Health uses SMART on FHIR to power integration with healthcare providers. Providers wishing to allow patients to access their health information via Apple Health will need to ensure their EHRs or data repository use the SMART standard.

Smile CDR, as the commercial implementation for HAPI (the open source FHIR API for Java), is the best choice for full FHIR stack integration with Apple.

OAuth2, a prerequisite for SMART on FHIR, is built into Smile CDR, leaving the door open for future integration with any conformant OAuth2 provider.

Having the full FHIR stack means Smile CDR provides a wider breadth of resources, a greater depth of support, and a higher degree of flexibility for the immediate implementation of future ideas. With the full FHIR stack opening up access to the entire FHIR ecosystem, providers can stay on the cutting edge of the newest innovations.

Implementation is also dependable and scalable: Smile CDR has the biggest open source deployment base and is powered by tried and tested high-performance interfaces capable of handling tens of thousands of transactions.

Get in touch today to learn how we can help power a range of SMART on FHIR-based solutions.

Conclusion

In the rapidly shifting healthcare landscape, embracing the changes pioneered by consumer-focused tech brands will be essential to getting in front of the coming disruption. Integration with Apple Health will help you put patients first through improved care and interoperability.

With a proven track record of implementation and standards governance, Smile CDR provides a robust and flexible solution for healthcare providers looking to achieve seamless integration with Apple Health.

Apple, iPhone, Apple Watch and HealthKit are trademarks of Apple Inc.

Any reference to or mention of Apple, iPhone, Apple Watch or HealthKit does not constitute or imply the authorization, sponsorship, endorsement, recommendation or approval of Apple Inc.

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