Challenging them to be transparent and mobile.

Healthcare tech is getting curiouser and curiouser. In recent days, the industry has been rocked by major news:

  • On January 24, Apple signaled its intent to become a player in electronic records management when Apple announced that its Health app will make it possible for iPhone users to get control of their own medical records. The announcement was one of many Apple has made over the years as part of the company’s strategy to provide wellness and clinical care through its software and devices.
  • On January 30, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan announced that they’re forming their own healthcare company to make healthcare more affordable for their U.S.-based employees. The details of the announcement were sketchy, but the implication was clear: the rising cost of healthcare is both unacceptable to businesses and a catalyst for change.

A Closer Look at Apple’s Aspirations

The Apple announcement has the greatest near-term impact because Apple already has an infrastructure in place to empower iPhone owners to manage their own medical records. That infrastructure consists of the iPhone, the Health app, and Apple’s relationships with medical providers, which are necessary for patients to get access to their records. Apple already has 12 medical providers onboard to participate in the program, and more will follow.

As more healthcare providers agree to participate, patients will be able to get quick access to records such as cholesterol levels on their own iPhones. As Apple announced, “Now, consumers will have medical information from various institutions organized into one view covering allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and vitals, and will receive notifications when their data is updated. Health Records data is encrypted and protected with the user’s iPhone passcode.”

Among the implications for healthcare systems:

  • Providing service to patients means creating partnerships with businesses such as Apple, as Cedars-Sinai, John Hopkins, and others have been doing. As we noted on our blog, networks will power the future of healthcare.
  • Mobile is increasingly at the center of patient care. The announcement reflects how patients are increasingly comfortable using mobile devices to participate in healthcare. Patients are using mobile to do everything form search for providers to managing their personal wellness. As we’ve often asked, What is your strategy for attracting and retaining patients with mobile?

A New Business Model?

On the other hand, the Amazon/Berkshire Hathaway/JP Morgan announcement was very light in details. But the lack of clarity around the companies’ plans has not prevented healthcare pundits from speculating on its implications.

A New York Times article warned that the new company will face many challenge, such as their inherent lack of healthcare expertise and a stubborn healthcare system that is remarkably resistant to change. But healthcare commentator Bruce Japsen wrote in Forbes that the formation of the new company “could be bad news for insurers and pharmacy benefit managers” because the trio of businesses will demand more cost transparency.

As Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, said, “Our people want transparency, knowledge and control when it comes to managing their healthcare.”

One certainty: with Amazon part of the story, you know change is a certainty – it’s just a matter of when, not if. The big picture here is the challenge for the healthcare industry to be more transparent. As we discussed on our blog, healthcare systems can become more transparent by combining location and physician data, descriptive content, and ratings/reviews – the three elements of what we call the Transparency Triangle.

We’re living in exciting and rapidly changing times. To service your patients in an era of transparency and mobility, contact SIM Partners. We have the experience and technology to help you improve your digital presence.