Apple CareKit powers Sharp HealthCare's surgery support app in pilot

By Laura Lovett
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San Diego-based Sharp HealthCare is one of the latest providers to use Apple’s CareKit, an open source toolkit for hospitals and health systems, to develop its mobile offering, the Sharp Health Companion app. The software is designed to help people navigate their surgery experience, including pre-surgery care, interventions, and post-surgery care. 

In the pilot, which focused on cataract surgery patients, Sharp reported that patients achieved an average medication adherence rate of 78.2 percent. The Sharp research team also reported zero surgery cancellations, zero post-surgery complications and zero readmissions. 

“The genesis of our app came from years of feedback from patients and care team members from the frontline who simply did not want to continue with the status quo of our current process,” Dr. Tommy Korn, an ophthalmologist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, said in a statement. “Our team approached the project from the perspective of the patient. What would we want if our own beloved parent was about to undergo cataract surgery?”

The pilot included 32 cataract surgery patients from the age of 25- to 85-years old, with an average patient age of 69 years. At the end of the pilot, 90 percent of patients responded that the app helped them understand the post-surgery instructions better. Ninety-seven percent said they would use this app if it was available in other surgeries or medical procedures. 

The app had three section: before surgery, day of surgery, and after surgery. 

The pre-surgery section uses the kit’s Care Card to give patients reminders about required tasks before their surgery, like using eye drops, stopping blood thinners, adjusting diabetic medications, and receiving medical clearance. 

On the day of surgery the app aims to alleviate some of the stress that comes with the procedure. It reminds users to avoid breakfast for anesthesia and choose comfortable clothes, and also gives patients directions to the hospital on Apple Maps. 

After the surgery, the app lets patients monitor their pain and eyesight by taking an eye test. If patients are in extreme pain after the surgery they can share photos of their eye with their care team securely. The app can also securely transfer health data to the Apple Health app, which can be shared with the patient's authorization, and allows patients to connect to their clinicians through the connect tab to help them change or learn about their treatment plans. 

In June Apple announced that it had upgraded CareKit to better connect its apps to hospital back-ends. It also created a prototyping tool to make the CareKit more available to non-developers. 

“CareKit apps today allow patients to share their data in PDF form via our Share Reports option on the Connect View,” Kelsey Dedoshka, a software engineer at Apple, said about the upgrades in June. “We found that it was time to upgrade this share experience. After the launch of CareKit, we were excited to hear how valuable the data collected via CareKit apps were, not only to patients but to their care team members. However, providing that data back to care teams is a manual process. And this can make it challenging for care teams to update their patient's care cards remotely and even get a good sense of how they're progressing through their care.”

Apple first announced the CareKit in 2016. Since then, large providers have jumped onboard to use the technology, including the Mayo Clinic. 

“Our app is helping patients feel empowered and at ease from start to finish,” Korn said in a statement. “It’s like having The Sharp Experience right in their pockets.”