First Steps with Apple’s HealthKit

This Mar. 18, 2017 article was originally published in Fast Company.

Developers like Lanier and PatientSafe Solutions’ Si Luo made an early bet that iOS would take off in health care. For them, Apple’s public announcement about its first steps in health care with HealthKit couldn’t have come quickly enough. “We had been trying to sell iOS into hospitals for seven years, only to see tremendous uptick in recent months,” says Luo. One of the earliest customers to come on board was Pueblo, Colorado-based Parkview Medical Center, which uses the PatientSafe Solutions app to help nurses manage patients’ medications at their bedside. To help minimize errors, nurses can scan a patient’s wristband to pull up a system on an iPhone that determines if the staff is administering the right medication at the right dose at the right time. The hospital also uses the app to ensure patients get the right blood for their type, as well as for voice and texting communications between nurses, doctors, and the pharmacy.

Luo recalls being invited to a meeting last winter with folks from Apple’s growing health unit, alongside several chief information officers at hospitals and fellow iOS health developers. At that meeting, he says, the group discussed how various apps like Tonic Health and PatientSafe Solutions could integrate together, as well as three major issues with iOS that were causing some concern among the largest hospitals. According to Lanier and Luo, who both attended, those issues were: order fulfillment in device lifecycle management (meaning reassuring these enterprise customers they wouldn’t need to order new devices in less than three years), security, and wireless connectivity.

Since this conversation 18 months ago, Luo says sales have jumped from 30 hospitals using the technology to 85 hospitals. He attributes the success to Apple making available an enterprise solutions architect by phone to reassure IT buyers about security and privacy, and a growing awareness of existing features like encryption of health data. “Apple now feels like the safest choice,” he says (security analysts tend to agree with this assessment), but note that Android might well make strides in the coming years).

Parkview Medical CIO Steve Shirley recalls another meeting with Apple, Cisco, and PatientSafe Solutions, with discussions ongoing for about a week. One of the big challenges involved ensuring that the hospital’s internal wireless network could support the iOS devices, and that the data would be secure with health care hacks on the rise. In the past few years, both Cisco and Apple have enhanced security, made feature updates so that the most critical apps are prioritized on the wireless network, and bolstered marketing efforts to reach IT buyers. “Ever since then, we have been rock solid in terms of our wireless communications,” says Shirley.

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