Dr. Ted Smith, CEO of Revon Systems, has spent a lot of time working on digital health and medical records, including a stint with the US Department of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration. With iOS 11.3, Apple is stepping into a bigger role in the healthcare ecosystem. We spoke with Smith, who is also the former general manager of TechRepublic and ZDNet, about how Apple Health Records could help make your smartphone a secure repository for your individual health records.
You can watch the video interview above or read the transcript below.
Jason Hiner: So, something you may not have known that is tucked into Apple's iOS 11.3 beta, is Apple Health Records, and this is enabling users to take their health records with them and to pull in health records from different providers. They have a number of health systems that have already partnered with them and agreed to start sharing records.
One of the promises of this technology is that people can take control of their own care and no longer just go to the doctor and say, "Doc, something's wrong with me. Tell me what to do." But instead, they understand they have control of their diagnostics, they understand and have the data from different providers and they can help manage their own health record.
We've got Dr. Ted Smith with us again. Dr. Ted, you've had a lot of different hats that you've worn. Now, CEO of Revon Systems, previously the Chief Innovation Officer of City of Louisville. But before that, you had a gig that relates directly to this subject. Tell us about that.
Ted Smith: Yeah, this is a great subject, and thank you, Jason. Before working for the mayor as the Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Louisville, I was a Senior Innovation Advisor at the US Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, in the office of the national coordinator of Health IT. It's a mouthful, but these are the folks that brought electronic health record systems to the country.
So the high tech act essentially compelled hospitals with a lot of incentive money to dump the paper charts and move to EHRs [electronic health records]. This exciting announcement from Apple is very near and dear to my heart, because personal health records have always been envisioned as a companion to hospital-based electronic health records.
So EHRs and PHRs, it's an interesting dance. Way long ago, it was envisioned for the country that PHRs could, like this Apple technology, could be a very important bridge for those who are traveling through the US healthcare system. That if your hospital isn't connected to all the other hospitals, your phone, in this case, may be the only thing that actually has a reliable record of your health experience or health history. So, I couldn't be more excited to see this news.
I mean, back in 2011, this was just an idea, a concept. It would take a company like Apple to make it a secure, trusted repository. I'm looking forward to seeing more and more of these health systems incorporating, be willing to connect their EHRs to your phone. Because ultimately, that will help us realize that vision of the person [as] the bridge to their care.
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Jason Hiner: There are some standards around this, right? FHIR, I think, is the name of the standard that these companies have to [work] with. So it's starting with Apple, and in the US, that's great. Of course, we know broadly outside of the US, it becomes a different subject because there are more Android phones. Is there the infrastructure in place to support this? Can something like this actually thrive, or is Apple way ahead of the market here?
Ted Smith: Well, look. If you want to talk about way ahead, there was a time when... Google had Google Health. Microsoft still has Health Vault. So way ahead, I think, is all relative. I feel like this is starting to scratch the itch of named, leading institutions like Johns Hopkins, who have signed up [with Apple Health Record], put their name on the line, their brand on the line and say, "We work with this." So, I think we're maybe midway through our sort of ultimate evolution.
You're absolutely right about Android and the market share. We can't necessarily rest on a single vendor platform, but at the same time, what's going to move it is adoption. Really, if you look at—as you know better than I do—the smartphone industry was created by Apple, and now made better or made different by everybody else. I think we can look forward to that in healthcare. Thank you, Apple, for sort of forcing this.
Now, I hope there will be a whole lot of fast followers who seek to improve it, and that consumers, patients, say, "Gosh. It's not that big of a hassle as it used to be." You know, still today, you go in the doctor's office, and you fill out the same fields they already know and you fill it out everywhere you go. That's really irritating in 2018.
Jason Hiner: Inefficient?
Ted Smith: Awful, and the opportunity for mistakes being made in transcription, you know, we really do deserve a better health care system. These are steps that get us there.
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Jason Hiner has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.