Emis joins forces with Apple to put power back into patients’ hands

A healthcare software provider is teaming up with Apple to revolutionise patient control over fitness and medical data.

EMIS Chief Clinical Officer Dr Shaun OHanlon

Emis Group, which provides clinical systems and services to over 5,000 healthcare organisations in the UK, has launched a mobile personal health record service that integrates with Apple iOS8 HealthKit.

HealthKit allows Apple users to collect data from health monitoring kit, such as blood pressure monitors and pedometers, in a secure database.

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Emis’ Patient Access app, which currently allows users to share data directly with their GP, can now collect HealthKit data alongside clinical health records, allowing patients and practitioners to view the information side-by-side.

Chris Spencer, chief executive of Leeds-based Emis Group, hailed the ‘ground-breaking’ service.

‘The outcome will be more informed consultations, better clinical decisions and improved outcomes for millions of patients on the NHS.’

Emis currently holds 39 million patient records that are accessed by thousands of healthcare providers, including GP practices, out-of-hours services, community care organisations and sexual health clinics.

Its existing Patient Access app currently has two million registered users, 600,000 of whom used the service in August.

Apple iOS8 users will be able to see lifestyle factors such as weight and activity levels, as well as clinical monitoring such as blood glucose and heart rate, alongside their medical files for free through Patient Access.

Emis’ chief medical officer Dr Shaun O’Hanlon told The Yorkshire Post that integrating the systems will give patients more control over their health.

He said: ‘It will give much more power to citizens to manage their health. It will turn healthcare into a much more grown up interaction.’

Users with chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or depression could benefit from the service by allowing professionals to view lifestyle and health readings over a long-term period.

‘A patient could record their blood pressure at home over six months and allow their doctor to see the data at their medication review,’ Dr O’Hanlon said.

‘Taking blood pressure readings once every six months in a doctor’s office is not very accurate: people get nervous about going to the doctors, or they may have missed their pills the day before.

‘Allowing data recorded over a longer period to be viewed alongside the medical record is very powerful.’

Similarly, patients suffering from depression could use the data to monitor any worsening of symptoms, as those suffering from severe depression tend to become sedentary, he said.

This information could enable doctors to identify lifestyle goals that will help patients manage their condition.

Currently the service is only available on Apple iOS8, following the operating system’s launch on September 17.

The decision to partner with Apple was made as the developer’s databases are ‘very secure’, Dr O’Hanlon said.

While Apple has opened up the HealthKit platform to developers, only software vendors with a rigorous approach to data security and use have been granted access to its data.

Apple’s own databases are ‘sandboxed’, which means the information cannot be accessed outside of the HealthKit app and is not part of its iCloud backup service.

Doctors and other care providers can only access the personal health record with the patient’s consent.

‘It’s really important that the data belongs to the citizen and it can’t be accessed without their permission,’ Dr O’Hanlon said.

‘Out of everything, health data has to be the most secure.’

Patients in the North West London Clinical Commissioning Group will be the first to access the service before a nationwide rollout.

Dr O’Hanlon predicted a ‘gradual adoption’ of the service, led by patient uptake, in the next six months. ‘It will be interesting to see how take-up goes,’ he added.