Digital health Twitter weighs in on Apple PHR news

By Jonah Comstock

Yesterday, Apple made a big, long-awaited announcement in healthcare: the company is entering the personal health record space with Apple Health, a new feature that will interface with EHRs at 12 hospitals. 

The news prompted immediate and vibrant feedback on Twitter, much of it centered on whether or not Apple could succeed where numerous others have failed. WeGo Health Chief Strategy Officer David Goldsmith kicked off the conversation, piggybacking on our coverage of the news.

One point that was brought up many times, missing from our initial coverage, is that many patients are Android users. Chilmark Research founder John Moore was the first to highlight it, but digital health strategist Naveen Rao and Open Health Network CEO Tatyana Kanzaveli also made the point.

Rao's comment also addresses the other major theme of the conversation: that the thing that's held back PHRs isn't primarily technical. Instead, making the platforms usable and worth using, and providing an actual benefit to patients, is necessary, and Apple hasn't proven that it will fare any better at that challenge. Moore articulated that point well in response to a tweet from CLOUD, Inc. founder Gary L. Thompson.

What Apple has going for it in that regard, Goldsmith pointed out, is buy-in from hospitals and EHRs as well as an extensive product ecosystem. I added, in response to Moore, that Apple has also shown a willingness to play a longer game in terms of profitability than smaller players can afford.

But Moore's question — Can Apple make the PHR worthwhile? — still looms large. Stephen Kraus, a healthcare investor with Bessemer Partners, and Dr. Bijan Salehizadeh, an investor at NaviMed, also tackled the engagement question. Kraus pointed out that Apple doesn't have to solve that problem all by itself.

Several tweeters, including Evidation Health President Christine Lemke, wondered whether patients will truly own or control the data with Apple's Health records.

Just one day past the announcement, it's too early to definitively answer any of these questions. But they're good ones to be watching, and conversations like these will likely be happening for a while, especially with HIMSS18 so close on the horizon. In the meantime, head over to Twitter to join the conversation. You can follow the MobiHealthNews team at @MobiHealthNews, @JonahComstock, @lauralovett7, and @dave_muoio.