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Apple's HealthKit Gets the Incentives Wrong

When HealthKit announced partnerships with big name healthcare and healthcare IT providers like Sutter, Mayo, and Epic, there was a brief moment where I braced myself for something truly transformative for healthcare. Spoiler alert: I was disappointed.

With an aggregator like HealthKit, there are plenty of reasons for players to pull data out but very few incentives to push data back in. Of course, sensors and quantified self products pitch users on access to personal data, hence all of HealthKit’s sleep and calorie tracking screenshots. But on the more clinical side of healthcare, the side related to your actual medical information, that has decidedly never been part of the pitch. When I first got into healthcare I was surprised to learn what everyone in the industry takes for granted: large healthcare providers consider their patients’ data proprietary. They have no reason to share it - even in cases of obvious benefit to patients - and HealthKit doesn’t change any of that.

The result is just what you’d expect given those incentives. As best I could tell from the few details available, Apple’s deal with folks like Sutter and Epic is that they will accept HealthKit information. That’s not a bad thing, but its also not a big thing. Pulling clinical data out of the healthcare system and bringing it to your iPhone alongside your sensor data - now that’s transforming healthcare.

"If Apple can’t unlock clinical healthcare data, who can?" click to tweet

This leads to the impending question. If Apple can’t unlock clinical healthcare data (just like Google and others before it) who can? For my part, I believe that the HealthKit announcement validates that the best way in is through the back door. Check out how we do just that at PicnicHealth. "