An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: Ramifications of Apple’s HealthKit

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With Apple’s recent announcement of “HealthKit“, a new platform for all apps health related, the industry has taken a big step forward in the ability to exchange data in one cohesive location.  For patient generated health data and mHealth, this has been a major stumbling block up until now – lots of devices and apps, each serving a unique purpose, but essentially walled off from each other.

With Apple stepping into this space, the hope is that an organized platform similar to iTunes with stringent technical protocols and reviews will encourage developers to build apps that can actually transfer information from the app to the platform – where it can be accessed by the patient, health care provider or hospital system.  So, as one example, if an individual is wearing a heart monitor device and its app detects an anomaly, the app would notify the doctor through the HealthKit platform.

And, just like on iTunes, customers will probably have apps suggested to them based upon what health data is missing from their HealthKit.  Need a fitness routine?  There’s an app for that.  The barriers will be low, as simple as buying a song.  But, are there other money making opportunities for Apple beyond consumer purchases?

While Apple maintains that the user will own the data (just like the customer owns the song they buy), one might wonder what the implications are for the pharmaceutical and device industries.  Over time, will Apple aggregate this data and begin selling population data to the life sciences industry?  Will they be able to characterize populations by demographics and marry this information with what is gleaned from all of these apps?  Will Apple know that people of a certain age, in a certain part of the country, that eat unhealthy food and not exercise enough have a propensity towards a specific disease state?  Will they resell this type of marketing data to life sciences?  And based upon these characteristics, would life sciences start targeted marketing campaigns to consumers or doctors with patients that meet this profile? And finally, while HealthNet is integrated with health care systems, what about EHRs?  Apple has already established a relationship with the Mayo Clinic and data from Healthnet will flow into Mayo’s systems later this year.  But, what about the other way – will data eventually flow back into HealthNet from your medical record?  Imagine having that data available to analyze and resell.

These questions remain open, but the store has been built and it is now up to the developers to bring their wares and stock the shelves.  Will the consumer embrace this store and share all of their health information as a trade-off for convenience?  Time will tell how healthy that apple actually is.

As a member of the Pharma industry, does this news have you jumping for joy or nervous about the potential privacy ramifications? Let us know at danielle.arad@verix.com.