Apple said during a keynote address at its Worldwide Developers Conference that it is working with the Mayo Clinic to integrate medical information via its platform HealthKit, a part of its new operating system for iPhones and iPads, iOS 8. The app consolidates a user's cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, heart rate, and other data from disparate apps and devices.
Marty Weintraub knows the data drill well. Since receiving a diagnosis of stage 3B Hodgkin's lymphoma in August 2005, plus having open-heart surgery and other serious health issues, the founder of the marketing company aimClear visits the Mayo Clinic often. After years of hard work and treatment, Weintraub lives a normal life, but is watched very carefully. Tons of data help keep tabs on his progress.
"Mayo has been a hugely data-drive company and very careful about privacy well before data got 'big,'" Weintraub said "Thousands of doctors, two huge teaching hospitals, multiple locations and massive clinics have been wired together for years. The facilities have physical tubes, like an old-fashion bank drive-through, that connects hospital facilities. The miles of infrastructure move paper and samples back and forth."
Weintraub calls a Mayo Clinic patient profile "a wondrous document," fully integrated between physician, services, locations, diagnosis, and timeline. He has used an earlier version of Healthkit (officially launching in September) for about a year. "The app is well done and security is tighter than any app I've ever seen," he said. "Remembering my login is not an option."
Leaving the door open for integration with a possible Apple wearable device later this year, HealthKit will let other wearable devices like Fitbit sync with Mayo Clinic patients' information, and consumers will have an option to access personal health information from the electronic wristband.
The partnership between Apple and Mayo Clinic aims to give patients easy access to their information. There are more than 15,000 iOS devices on the Mayo Clinic's network, so building apps for this platform was a priority. One of the biggest issues, however, points to protecting consumer data privacy. Apple executives stressed privacy and security consumer concerns had been addressed at the company's WWDC event. It's just too difficult to secure third-party apps.
"Mayo Clinic patients will continue to securely access their patient information and services, but in the future, they will increasingly be able to organize and act on their health and wellness data in a more seamless manner," per the Mayo Clinic. "Users will be able to monitor various HealthKit parameters through an easy-to-interpret dashboard, which highlights trends and flags values that may need attention."
Weintraub welcomes the clinic building its info-gathering technology to mine more data from him. "I don't care about it being in the cloud because I trust Mayo to keep me alive and my data safe," he said. "I trust my life in Mayo's hands, so why not my data? The more data Mayo can mine from me the better. I trusted them with my data before the cloud and trust them now. If anything, they are over-conservative. Mayo still won't even answer tweets about non-medical matters from patients who are physically at the hospital thanking them."