I Tried Apple's Health Record and Here's What Happened

I Tried Apple's Health Record and Here's What Happened

Update: On March 29, 2018 Apple moved this feature out of beta and made it available to all iOS 11.3 users. Read more about the release here

by: Katie D. McMillan, MPH

If you have ever tried to gather your medical records from multiple hospitals, you know what a pain that is. Growing up in a military family, my mother would pick up a pink folder, a few inches thick, from each base, and carry it to the next place our family was stationed. This worked pretty well to keep everything together, even if it was a little unwieldy. Once I graduated from college, everything changed. I moved a few times for new jobs, and with that came new insurance companies, and new HMOs, all who had pieces of my personal health history within their own systems. In 2014 I pondered, “wouldn’t it be great to have this all available on my iPhone, in one place?

January 24, 2018, my dreams were realized through Apple’s new Health Records. The goal of the update to Apple Health is to empower patients to pull together a complete picture of their health history. This is accomplished through the use of FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources), a data sharing standard.

This week, Duke Health joined the list of health systems who have enabled Health Records. As soon as it was available, I had to try it! For those interested, here’s my step by step guide:

1.     Join the Apple Beta Program

Health Records will be part of the next iOS update, but if you are anxious to try it out now, you can join the Apple Beta Program. Go here to sign up: https://beta.apple.com/sp/betaprogram/

You log in with your normal iTunes credentials, including user name and password.

Then Apple sends you a push notification on your phone with a 6-digit Apple ID Verification Code. You enter this in the beta program browser. Great, you’re authenticated!

2.     Back up your phone

Apple suggests you back up your phone in the event that there is a glitch in the Beta software. I didn’t have any issues, but I backed up everything to both iTunes and iCloud, just in case. This was the longest part of the process because it took about 15 minutes to do the full back up on iTunes.

3.     Install the iOS Beta

From your iPhone, go to beta.apple.com/profile to download the configuration profile. Your iOS device will prompt you to install it. Follow the instructions for how to do this. You'll have to restart your phone to complete the process. 


Go to your software setting on the iPhone --> General -->Software Update and you’ll see an available update there. Go ahead and install. Your phone should be plugged in and will likely re-start.


4.     Go to the Health App on your phone and authenticate

Great! Now you are ready to access your Health Records. Go to the Health app on your phone (white square with a little red heart icon on the upper right hand side.) Once you tap that you will see this screen:



I’ve circled Health Records. Once you tap on that, you’ll see this:



After you tap “Get Started” you can choose your hospital (if they are participating). I allowed the app to utilize my location, so the first on the list is closest to me. Very convenient since I was on the Duke hospital campus while I did this :) 



Once I chose Duke, I was prompted to authenticate with my Epic MyChart credentials. This is a key step—if you don’t already have a MyChart or patient portal account, you will not be able to log in. Patient portals are awesome, so if you are a patient and your hospital offers it, sign up!



I didn’t grab a screen shot of the next step, but I consented to this app to access my health data from Duke after reading a brief consent form. It all fit on about a screen and a half of my iPhone 7.

And then, I was in! Here is what is looks like:



I blurred out the number to the right of each category for my own privacy sake, but there are counts of how many data points exist in each section. I could see food and medication allergies, vitals with dates from the visit, vaccination history (this is unfortunately incomplete, but I don’t think Duke has my full vaccination history), lab tests with really clear outcomes – for example when I was pregnant my blood type was determined and it’s all in there—and there are nice visual scales for the low and high ends of normal, and where you fall on the scale based upon your lab value.

I can already see much of this in my MyChart account—but the beauty and the vision of Health Records is that in the future you could populate your entire medical history and store it in one place on your phone. You’d simply authenticate with other patient portal accounts, for example, if I had doctors at UNC as well, and the data would all be shown together. You will also receive alerts when new data is available from your medical record without having to log in again. Hooray! Try it out, and let me know if this was helpful. I can be reached at katie.mcmillan@duke.edu 


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