Cupertino, California-based tech giant Apple announced Monday it would add a medication tracking service through its native Health app.
The app includes medication reminders and scheduling, the ability to scan drugs or manually add them into the app and in the U.S., it notifies people on critical drug interactions. It will be available on iPhones and Apple Watch devices in the iOS 16 operating system on phones and the watchOS 9 operating system for the Apple Watches.
Apple is partnering with drug database solutions company Elsevier to identify and categorize the severity of potential interactions.
While many of the services Apple announced are available in other applications on its App Store, natively supporting features could aid adoption, Dr. William Gordon, director of solution and experience, digital care transformation at Mass General Brigham, said in an emailed interview.
“Given Apple’s scale, there is a huge opportunity to research how patient-facing drug alerts can change behavior and practice,” Gordon said.
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Gordon has researched how physicians can use apps in their practices. In a paper in npj digital medicine published February 2020, he and other researchers wrote the sheer number of medication tracking and other apps available create “substantial barriers to the diffusion of these apps into clinical care."
Gordon said health tracking apps generally fall short because they “lack key data integrations needed to make them useful and practical.”
The more manual data entry that is required limits usefulness and lowers a patient’s likelihood of interacting, Gordon said. “If the apps require a ton of manual data entry, for example, it is less likely patients will fully engage; the data in the app will drive a lot of how useful it can be,” he said.
Apple’s announcement is part of its overall health strategy to use more clinical data. Last year, the company said it was integrating its data into six electronic health record systems including Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, CPSI, DrChrono and Meditech.
The updates, which include the ability to share health information to trusted contacts, are expected to launch this fall.
This story first appeared in Digital Health Business & Technology.