Apple adds medication tracking to iPhone. How will it affect the specialist patient journey?
Imagine visiting your doctor’s office. Instead of swiping a copy card and filling out a paper form by hand, the receptionist says, “We take Apple Health.” You wave your iPhone over a digital kiosk and instantly upload your current medical records and insurance information. Your co-payment is then deducted from a health savings account. Voila! The doctor will see you now.
This scenario is no longer relegated to the distant future. By introducing medication tracking to its existing iPhone Health app, Apple just did for long-term prescription drug users what it did for anyone with a physical wallet. It paved the way for an iPhone-native EHR tool capable of interoperable functionality.
The end result for users will be unparalleled convenience. For pharmaceutical companies, Apple’s new tools integrate their products closer to patients’ overall health records through the power of mobile apps—something many drugmakers tried but failed to achieve on their own. And for specialty medical patients, whose medical journey requires the most time and money, the iPhone medication tool can prove to be a godsend.
The concept of a medication tracking smartphone app is not new. Medisafe, Mango Health (acquired by TrialCard) and RediHealth are among those serving the same purpose, offering sophisticated features and limited data integration with other apps. This and other existing tools for medication have set a high standard for the industry. Apple, then, cannot expect to convert all iPhone users to its original medication tracking overnight. But these apps can’t immediately access Apple’s point-of-sale payment functionality, or seamlessly integrate with the Apple Watch’s health-tracking features, or read, respond to, and share stored Apple Health data with a provider. Allowing medication tracking in the Apple Health ecosystem promises untethered functionality—not unlike the difference between switching from Venmo to Apple Pay.
For iPhone users with only a small handful of active prescriptions, this isn’t a strong selling point. These users may only use a medication tracker while traveling, if they use one at all. Specialty patients, whose prescriptions combat rare or life-threatening conditions, do not have this luxury. They have to take more drugs more often than the general population. Preloading all actionable data on all prescription drugs—including when to take each—has the potential to unlock a world of convenience.
The iOS tool underlying the Apple Health framework is HealthKit, a database that contains the user’s entire health profile. It allows all other apps on your iPhone to access the data in your profile. What does it mean for special medical patients? Let’s say I need to reduce the frequency or dose of one of my 20 prescription drugs. I can manually enter the new frequency or dose into the Apple Health medication tracker. Then, with one click, HealthKit can sync this change with the MyChart app, or whatever app my provider uses to communicate with me. Only a native app can facilitate such speed and ease for a simple transaction.
The power of these so-called “white label” engines – background apps that facilitate information sharing between separate data ecosystems – is not limited to healthcare. This is just one example of a wider, global trend towards the use of mobile devices. The bottom line: patients and clinical providers alike will be able to ditch their desktop computers and use a smartphone to handle all their needs—from checking into the doctor’s office, filling out forms, tracking medications, and everything in between.
Seventy-eight percent of specialist medical patients already use their mobile phone when visiting pharmacy sites. They engage with their device in this way at all times of the day. This subset of the patient population will inevitably benefit the most from Apple’s medication tracking, showing the way forward for the power of native apps to transform an inconvenient chore into an instant convenience.
About Yishai Knobel
Yishai is the co-founder and CEO of HelpAround. Before HelpAround, Knobel was Head of Mobile at AgaMatrix Diabetes, manufacturer of the world’s first smartphone glucometer. He also served in Microsoft’s Startup Labs in Cambridge and as an officer in an Israeli army’s elite R&D unit. Knobel received his MBA from MIT, and has a BA in psychology and computer science.