Duke, Stanford are also working on HealthKit pilots

By Jonah Comstock
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Epic hospitals HealthkitAccording to a report from Reuters, two more large hospitals are embarking on pilots with Apple's HealthKit: Stanford University Medical Center and Duke University Hospital. Stanford is using the technology to track blood sugar in children with diabetes, while Duke will be tracking blood pressure and weight for patients with cancer and heart conditions.

Apple appears to be working with a large number of prominent hospitals to explore HealthKit's potential in different use cases. The company announced its partnerships with Mayo Clinic and EHR maker Epic Systems when it announced HealthKit at its WWDC event in June. Since then, reports have surfaced that the company is working with Johns Hopkins, Mt. Sinai, and the Cleveland Clinic -- as well as health insurers UnitedHealthcare and Humana. 

According to Reuters, though, the Stanford and Duke pilots are among the furthest along, with both set to begin in the next two weeks. The Stanford trial will begin with just two patients, who will use Dexcom continuous glucose monitors. Dexcom is in the process of working with Apple and the FDA to integrate with HealthKit.

The plan is for patients to have their continuous glucose monitor devices send data to the Dexcom app on their smartphone, which will in turn send the data to HealthKit. HealthKit will send it to the Epic EHR via the patient-facing MyChart app. At some point in the process, Stanford will set up alerts so they can notify patients immediately of a dangerous drop in blood sugar. Stanford officials told Reuters the pilot would be expanded quickly if no problems emerged.

Blood pressure, the primary metric for the Duke study, was also mentioned by Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi when he described the Mayo Clinic pilot. He described in more detail how the alert process could work.

“We’re also working with the Mayo Clinic, innovators in healthcare,” he said at the time. “And with their integration with HealthKit, they’re going to be able to — when a patient takes a blood pressure reading, HealthKit automatically notifies their app. And their app is automatically able to check whether that reading is in that patients’ personalized healthcare parameters threshold. And if not, it can contact the hospital proactively, notify a doctor, and that doctor can reach back to that patient, providing more timely care.”

Apple is also putting some effort into ensuring the privacy and security of health data in advance of the rollout of HealthKit, according to the report. In addition to the new privacy terms already added to the app, the company is reportedly considering a "HealthKit certification" for third party apps that will mark an app as having secure data storage and will preclude companies selling health data acquired via HealthKit to third parties.