The growing adoption of Apple’s healthcare technology by major U.S. hospitals is a sign of the ongoing development of health care in the 21st century.
A survey of 23 top hospitals found that 14 are in talks to introduce Apple’s HealthKit service or have already launched pilot programs. The service acts as a repository for patient-generated health information like blood pressure, weight or heart rate, Reuters said.
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Apple’s HealthKit works by gathering data from sources such as glucose measurement tools, food and exercise-tracking apps and Wi-fi connected scales. HealthKit is not an app but a framework that allows third-party apps to sync with Apple’s new and proprietary health tracking app, Health. This lets users chart metrics like weight, sleep and calorie intake, the report said.
Apple rivals Google and Samsung Electronics, which have released similar services, but are only just starting to reach out to hospitals and other medical partners.
Such systems hold the promise of allowing doctors to watch for early signs of trouble and intervene before a medical problem becomes acute. That could help hospitals avoid repeat admissions, for which they are penalized under new U.S. government guidelines, all at a relatively low cost.
The U.S. healthcare market is $3 trillion, and researcher IDC Health Insights predicts that 70 percent of healthcare organizations worldwide will invest by 2018 in technology including apps, wearables, remote monitoring and virtual care.
Sumit Rana, chief technology officer at Epic Systems, said the timing is right for mobile health tech to take off. “We didn’t have smartphones ten years ago; or an explosion of new sensors and devices, ” Rana said.
Many of the hospitals told Reuters they were eager to try pilots of the Google Fit service, since Google’s Android software powers most smartphones. Google said it has several developer partners on board for Fit, which connects to apps and devices, but did not comment on its outreach to hospitals.
Still, hospitals must decide whether the difficulty of sorting through a deluge of patient-generated data of varying quality is worth the investment. “This is a whole new data source that we don’t understand the integrity of yet, ” said William Hanson, chief medical information officer at the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
A few hospitals are also exploring how to manage the data that is flowing in from health and fitness-concerned patients. Experts say that there will eventually be a need for common standards to ensure that data can be gathered from both Apple’s system and its competitors, according to Reuters.