How Hospitals Are Using Apple HealthKit and ResearchKit

Cell phone health check concept

A year ago this month, Apple launched (after a few setbacks) its much anticipated HealthKit, a software development platform for building apps that collect and share personal health and fitness information across other apps via wearable or mobile devices, like an iPhone or Apple Watch.

So far, it seems hospital IT groups have been putting the platform to good use.

In August, North Carolina-based Novant Health announced it was using HealthKit integrated to the Fitbit fitness tracker, to let patients submit fitness and health information to their physicians. Earlier this year, Reuters reported over a dozen hospitals have developed or plan to pilot medical apps based on Apple’s development tools.

Tools for researchers
Apple’s ResearchKit, announced last March, is also getting traction in U.S. hospitals. Apple describes it as “an open source software framework that makes it easy for researchers and developers to create apps that could revolutionize medical studies.”

The hyperbole aside, mobile technology is making it easier to reach prospective participants for clinical trials. Researchers at institutions like Stanford, for example, say they are able to rapidly scale data collection for medical studies by tapping into health information volunteered by iPhone users around the globe.

Below are some other U.S. hospitals utilizing the HealthKit and ResearchKit platforms.

Ochsner Medical Center
Ochsner’s Hypertension Digital Medicine Program is tracking several hundred patients struggling to control their blood pressure. Using wireless blood pressure cuffs integrated with HealthKit, patients regularly measure their blood pressure and heart rate at home, with their data sent directly to their electronic medical records for review by clinicians. The program also sends refill reminders and health tips to patients using the Apple Watch.

Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic’s mobile app, integrated to HealthKit, offers a variety of patient messaging and health data management tools.  Patients can manage appointments, view lab and radiology data, and send secure messaging to their care team using an iPhone or Android device.

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Researchers at Mt. Sinai are piloting ResearchKit in a clinical trial for asthma management. They are measuring the effectiveness of an asthma app designed to help patients manage symptoms, improve quality of life and reduce medical visits. The app helps asthma sufferers track their condition and provides helpful medication reminders and clinical feedback.

Cedars-Sinai Medical System
In April, this Los Angeles health system enabled access to its Epic MyChart system for 87,000 patients via HealthKit. At the time of the announcement, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the program was the largest HealthKit integration to date.  Cedars-Sinai CIO Darren Dworkin said the integration was also notable for the speed with which it was enabled—two weeks to configure, test and rollout the solution using code already developed by Epic and Apple. “We didn’t have to build,” Dworkin told the Wall Street Journal. “Essentially, we turned on HealthKit within our portal.”