A New Era for Remote Patient Monitoring

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple’s debut of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch on Sept. 9 marks a new era in health care diagnostics. Apple’s updated operating system will allow the devices to integrate with electronic health records.

HealthKit, an exclusive app for Apple, is designed to integrate health-monitoring data from multiple apps and devices such as Apple Watch. In June, Apple announced a partnership with Mayo Clinic, which has been working with the tech giant for two years to help design the HealthKit software and app. The HealthKit system has the ability to leverage engagement by alerting patients when their breathing is abnormal, for example, and then scheduling a follow-up visit with their doctor.

On Sept. 10, the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) praised Apple’s new technology, saying it demonstrates how advanced telecommunications can be used to transform the delivery of health services by allowing consumers to seamlessly monitor their own health and fitness information, and ultimately share the data with their health providers. The ATA said one of the most important aspects of the HealthKit system is that Apple has chosen to integrate its technology with health provider systems and electronic record platforms. It’s a stark contrast to competing health devices and apps, which have often chosen to compete with providers and market stand-alone products rather than work to streamline the patient-provider process.

“These developments enable consumers to take their personal health data into their own hands where it belongs,” said Jonathan Linkous CEO of ATA, in a statement. “We look forward to seeing how empowering consumers in this new way changes modern health care delivery.”

Apple has been reportedly promoting its HealthKit service to health providers at Mount Sinai in New York City; Johns Hopkins in Baltimore; and Madison, Wis.-based Epic Systems, an electronic health records provider.

Filament Labs, a health care tech startup based in Austin, Texas, announced Sept. 10 that its care delivery platform, Patient IO, is one of the first electronic products to integrate with Apple’s HealthKit. The platform makes it easier for hospitals and health providers to communicate and engage with patients between doctor visits by creating a personalized care plan that delivers treatment-specific tasks, reminders and educational content to smartphones.

Wearable remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a booming business, according to New York-based ABI Research, which provides analysis for emerging technologies. A report from the company, “The Remote Patient Management Revolution: Wearable Devices and Open Management Platforms,” found close to 100 million RPM devices will be distributed over the next five years. Apple isn’t the only player in the patient engagement market; Google has released its Google Fit platform and Samsung has its Gear Fit device.

One barrier to widespread adoption of a health data repository, something that Apple is trying to become, is the limited scope of integration between all parties involved in patient health. The cloud-based HealthKit system, which promises to seamlessly connect technology, apps and health care facilities, may fuel interest.

“Data has traditionally resided in silos belonging to specific applications delivered primarily by device vendors themselves. New cloud platforms capable of collecting data from a range of vendor devices and sharing it securely with a range of related parties including patients, health care providers and payers will drive adoption and bring more connected devices to market,” said Jonathan Collins, principal analyst at ABI Research, in a statement.