Apple’s deal with the VA is a big step toward giving patients control over their own health info

Health, Fitness & Food

Apple announced on Monday that it’s working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to bring health records to the iPhone.

shared its much-anticipated rules that are designed to prevent information blocking.

“The barriers are coming down,” said Kenneth Mandl, a director of computational health informatics at Boston Children’s Hospital and a longtime advocate of the “App Store for health” concept.

“And Apple is a first mover in taking advantage of these new laws and regulations,” he explained.

The earliest beneficiaries will be early adopters of Apple’s health records software, who can use it to get their data from participating health systems, as well as veterans and patients enrolled in Medicare.

But Mandl believes it’s only a matter of time before commercial insurers and other groups follow suit.

As this trend continues, anyone with a smartphone will someday be able to see their clinical record (what happened when they got treated at a hospital or clinic), and their claims history (what got billed). That unified data set will also open up a lot of opportunities for health app developers that can generate important new insights.

It’s also good for patients, he said, as they can present everything to a doctor rather than having to be subjected to duplicate tests and procedures.

Mandl and others have already put decades of work toward making this a reality for patients, many of whom still must request records from every hospital or clinic they’ve visited. There’s been a big trend towards open standards, as well as to reduce the crazy fees some electronic medical records providers charge to give third party access to this data.

“Until now, the data systems that patients and doctors rely on for their care have been composed of many different companies’ products run by many different hospitals without an overarching strategy for how they talk to each other, as well as other software systems,” said Mandl.

But these rules promote a “universal approach for connecting apps to health systems, the same way you might connect an app to your smartphone.”

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