On Tuesday, Apple executives will deliver a keynote address—the inaugural event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, Calif.—showing off new software and gadgets. There's rampant speculation that the company will unveil new iPhones.
Those devices may soon be the key to—or even a replacement for—electronic health records. Ever-secretive Apple is rumored to be rethinking EHRs, potentially pulling together healthcare data on the iPhone, which, as it sits in the patient's hands, is a real-life, physical embodiment of buzzy patient-centered care.
"Consumers are demanding more control," said Morris Panner, CEO of Amra Health, a healthcare cloud software company. "Apple is fundamentally a consumer-oriented company, and consumer systems are going to try to empower patients."
The iPhone, which turned 10 this summer, already aggregates some health data in apps. But most of that is patient-generated. If the company can add information from doctors offices and clinics—test results, visit summaries, medication lists—the iPhone could become an important healthcare tool in achieving interoperability, which has for so long frustrated the industry.
To do that, Apple has already tapped important interoperability organizations, like the Argonaut Project, and people, including developers who've worked on the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, or FHIR, standard.
The iPhone isn't the only device Apple hopes will affect the healthcare industry. The Apple Watch is important too. In August, Apple and Aetna held private talks about giving the watches to Aetna members.
Last year, the insurer gave the watch for free to its 50,000 employees.
A recent patent also suggests a more definitive move into healthcare. In August, the company received a patent for an electronic device with a camera, light sensor, and proximity sensor, which together are used to gather health data. "Traditionally, health data is provided to users by healthcare professionals," according to the company. "However, it may be beneficial for users to have more access to health data."