Cleveland Clinic Offers Patients Ready Access to Personal Health Data with Apple Health Records

Cleveland Clinic has joined the growing ranks of health systems and hospitals to make patient personal health data available via the Apple Health Records app. Though not among the initial handful of health systems to first adopt the Apple Health Records service when it launched earlier this year, considering that Cleveland Clinic has a long history of being an innovation leader, it's little surprise that the forward-thinking organization has now embraced the technology.

The move will improve patient access to health data - a key element in patient engagement strategies, as it is known that patients who are more knowledgeable and better informed about their own unique health data are more engaged with their care and more likely to keep up with their treatment plans.

"When patients have direct access to their personal health information, they have the opportunity to live healthier lives," said Cleveland Clinic Chief Medical Information Officer Amy Merlino. "They are able to track important health factors, such as weight or cholesterol or blood sugar, to determine their own personal trends over time. They are able to easily see a combined view of their information from multiple health systems, as well as have the ability to share their healthcare history with other providers."

The app - available on iOS devices - functions in a similar fashion to a personal health record (PHR), allowing patients to aggregate all of their health data from multiple sources into one convenient application. By making patient data available to patients directly from their smartphones, Cleveland Clinic is giving patients more ownership of their own health records.

In addition, Cleveland Clinic patients can also access their personal health data via Cleveland Clinic's version of the Epic MyChart app, meaning that there are now multiple pathways for patients to access their important health information digitally.

Enhancing Relationships with Patients

One of the beauties of Apple Health Records is that patients can share their medical information with relevant stakeholders - including family caregivers as well as other healthcare providers - as they see fit. Though this functionality was previously available via Cleveland Clinic's MyChart patient portals, according to Cleveland Clinic Medical Director of Digital Health, Peter Rasmussen, making health data available via Health Records is simpler and more intuitive for patients who already own an iOS device.

"Access to one's own medical records is a crucial part of the digital transformation taking place in healthcare today, and enhances our relationship with our patients," said Rasmussen. "Our goal is to make that access as easy, convenient and useful as possible, placing patients firmly in the center of their own health data."

Both MyChart and Health Records allow patients to view their personal health information, including allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures, and vitals, while also helping them to organize this information - which may come from multiple institutions - into one view. Patients will also receive notifications when their data is updated.

When synced together, the MyChart and Health Records apps will also let iPhone users view upcoming and past appointments, physician notes, and details about hospital admissions. In addition, patients are able to schedule appointments, request prescription refills, and message their providers.

Final Thoughts

According to a KLAS report published in May 2018, most of Apple's early adopters of Health Records said they are optimistic about the app's ability to optimize health data access and patient engagement. Two-thirds said that Health Records will improve patient empowerment, and 60% said they think positive impacts may become apparent as little as six months following adoption.

"Immediately, Health Records is expected to help solve the intractable challenge of interoperability by allowing iPhone users to store their health records on a device that is already omnipresent in their lives," the KLAS report noted. "This convenience is expected to increase patient satisfaction and also engender in patients an expanding sense of self-ownership and self-involvement in their own care."

Cleveland Clinic - which includes more than 3,600 physicians and 1,400 nurses across 140 medical specialties and subspecialties - joins UC Irvine Health, Omni Dermatology, Mission Health, Kreptowski Family Practice, Innovative Express Care SC, and 76 other institutions in working with Apple to allow patients to access EHR data through the Health Records feature.

There are more than 2,000 hospital-based health systems operating in the US today. According to the KLAS report, the key to Apple's success in this field will be its ability to scale - but to do so, it will need to leverage connections throughout the health IT space.

"In order to reach more than one-third of [US hospital-based health systems], Apple will need to expand to EMR vendors beyond their current partners (athenahealth, Cerner, and Epic)," the report concluded. "In terms of capabilities, participants say that being able to upload data back into the EMR will be vital and that eventually Health Records' data model will need to support more detailed data than the C-CDA data elements handled today."

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