The Cedars-Sinai Health System in Los Angeles has integrated its Epic electronic health records system with Apple’s HealthKit to exploit health and fitness data gathered from more than 80,000 patients.

Cedars-Sinai patients will be able to use HealthKit through Epic’s MyChart app, the patient portal which provides them with access to their lab results, appointment information, current medications, immunization history, and more on mobile devices. Now, with a patient’s permission, the health system has updated its MyChart app to access data such as activity levels, blood pressure, glucose levels, oxygen saturation levels and weight from Apple’s HealthKit data repository and to share it with their provider.

Through the patient portal, Cedars-Sinai reached out to approximately 87,000 patients, letting them know about the EHR-HealthKit integration. The patients themselves choose to opt in to the program and what types of data—if any—they want to share through HealthKit.     

 Darren Dworkin, senior vice president of enterprise information systems and chief information officer at Cedars-Sinai, said the integration project started earlier this year and went live this month.

“We’re interested in ways to engage our patients with their care and specifically we think that one of the best ways to do that is through their medical record and this emerging area of wellness and device data,” said Dworkin. “For Cedars-Sinai, a large number of our patients use iOS devices and we use the Epic EHR internally. All we had to do was configure the feed and we were able to turn this on.”

A software development tool, HealthKit enables health and fitness apps to communicate with each other and to share data. Announced last June at the Worldwide Developers Conference, HealthKit is part of Apple's iOS8 software developers’ kit, the latest developer OS for its iPhones and iPads. Since then, hospitals around the country have started to roll out pilot programs after Epic decided to integrate HealthKit into its EHR systems, which serve more than 170 million patients per year.

Also See: Ochsner Rolls Out Epic-HealthKit Program

“To give credit where credit is due, Apple and Epic—two organizations that don’t always get props for having open standards—I think were as open as can be and have led the way in connecting their systems to each other,” Dworkin commented. “Compared to the way that health integration works today, it was the closest thing to plug-and-play. I give tremendous kudos to Apple and Epic for having figured out the plumbing.”

As a big academic medical center, Cedars-Sinai’s initial roll out of the EHR-HealthKit integration is seeing the greatest utilization rate on the ambulatory side. But, according to Dworkin, glucose levels in particular, facilitated by HealthKit, are seen as potentially valuable for monitoring patients with diabetes and pre-diabetes. “For years and years, diabetics have been bringing in paper log books to have a conversation with their endocrinologists about their blood glucose levels,” he added. “But, what we wanted to enable for them is the opportunity for patients to have more of a digital conversation with their physicians.”

Ultimately, he confessed that Cedars-Sinai is not sure where HealthKit will take them. “It will be directed by patient activity,” Dworkin concluded. “If we see lots of patients uploading weight information, we’re going to jump into that and perhaps build some clinical program around it. We’re going to follow the patients.”       

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