Apple wants to control the way you communicate with your doctor

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All these updates may seem minor, but they’re representative of a larger story: Apple increasingly wants to serve as an interface between patients and their doctors. While Apple has not always succeeded in creating health products, the industry is still likely to welcome it. Healthcare providers want more ways to engage with patients outside their offices and regulators want patients to have easier access to their own health data.

This week Apple revealed a mix of health features that at first glance seem a bit all over the place. It added a new way to measure mobility health and announced that iOS 15, due this fall, will let users of its Health app send a summary of their data to doctors that is viewable inside their electronic health record. Patients will also be able to share their Health app data with friends and family.

Apple’s Health app can already pull in patient health data from a vast and growing list of healthcare providers in the U.S., but the new version of the Health app will be able to send a summary of daily health data back to doctors. This update could put the Health app at the center of patients’ ongoing conversations with their doctors. Patients will be able to easily send information about their eating and exercise habits over to their physicians—where it can be viewed inside their electronic health record, making it easily readable by their doctors—as well as to friends and family. To preserve some privacy, and to make it more digestible, it will appear as part of a summary of trends and health events, rather than individual health entries.

This new doctor-sharing capability is being supported by several electronic health record companies, including Cerner, the second-largest such company in the U.S. Notably absent from the list is Epic, the biggest health record company in the country and the one most wary of Apple’s ascendance in healthcare.

Epic has its own health app for collecting and sharing patient data called MyChart. The app is part of the company’s expansion outside of the hospital and into the hands of patients. MyChart already integrates with some Apple products: For instance, it can read data from the Apple Health app and Watch. But it’s not yet clear the company is willing to share patient data back to Apple.

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