Apple's HealthKit gets a checkup at top hospitals

The service is being trialed or considered at 14 of the 23 leading hospitals polled by Reuters, though implementing it poses some challenges.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Hospitals are checking out Apple's HealthKit as a cost-cutting measure. Apple

Apple new HealthKit technology is getting its own examinations at some top hospitals to see if it can successfully monitor patients remotely and thus help trim medical costs.

Among 23 of the leading hospitals questioned by Reuters, 14 have launched a pilot program of HealthKit or are in discussions to do so, Reuters reported on Thursday. The goal of the program is to see if doctors can monitor patients with chronic ailments such as diabetes and hypertension looking for early signs of medical problems so they can step in before a problem becomes more serious.

Ultimately, such monitoring could help hospitals save money by cutting down on repeat admissions, which earn them penalties from the government, Reuters said.

Unveiled last year, Apple's HealthKit is a framework designed for developers to create apps that can gather and share medical information about its users. Via Apple's Health app, the data collected from third-party apps can then be sent remotely to doctors and hospitals. Apple is competing with Google and Samsung, which have launched similar services. Those services are only now starting to roll out for testing, which means Apple is ahead of the game. But many of the hospitals say they also want to test the Google Fit service since most smartphones run Android.

Right now, the Health app is available only for the iPhone. But it will also be a key part of the Apple Watch, due to launch in April. As such, you could wear the watch all day so the Health app continuously monitors your overall health and specific medical conditions.

One hospital cited by Reuters as piloting HealthKit is Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans. Working with Apple and healthcare software provider Epic Systems, Ochsner has been using the technology to monitor patients with high blood pressure.

"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.

Technology has been seen as one way to cut down on spiraling medical costs. But there are challenges.

Doctors have to determine if sorting through all the medical data they could potentially receive is worth the time, effort and investment. Apple, Google and Samsung are using their own unique products and services to win a piece of the healthcare market. But for the technology to work for all medical providers, common standards will need to be put into place.

Further, patients and doctors have to trust that the exchange of medical data will be safe and secure. That's an especially relevant concern following the news this week that health insurance provider Anthem was the victim of a major hack, exposing the personal information of as many as 80 million former and current members and employees.