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Security

Health care app uses Apple Watch to ID doctors, follow privacy law

Doctors can view private records only when they are wearing the watch. The approach uses the Apple Watch's ability to identify its wearer to protect patient privacy.

AirStrip is an Apple Watch app for health care professionals. James Martin/CNET

Health care app maker AirStrip has found a clever way to comply with strict federal privacy laws: using Apple Watch's abilities to confirm a doctor's identity.

On Wednesday, AirStrip's co-founder Cameron Powell demonstrated the app's power at an Apple event in San Francisco. The app shows patients' information, including their diagnoses and lab results, on the watch screen and allows doctors to send them secure messages. The app also lets doctors communicate with other health care providers about patients.

The Airstrip app taps into the Apple Watch's ability to sense who is wearing the device. That allows the AirStrip app to comply with HIPAA, a federal law that strictly protects a patient's private health information. Any electronic health record system has to comply with this law, and the Apple Watch is no exception.

"You're securely authenticated to use AirStrip as long as you're wearing Apple Watch," Powell said.

The innovation could help ease privacy concerns of people seeking health care. Of course, doctors with Apple Watches will still need to avoid flashing patient records around on their wrists in public.

See all of today's Apple news.