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Apple might help bring veterans’ medical records into the modern era

Apple might help bring veterans’ medical records into the modern era


To help it make inroads in the multi-trillion dollar healthcare industry

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Apple is reportedly in talks with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to provide veterans access to electronic medical records on the iPhone, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. Such a deal could help Apple make significant progress in its attempts to partner with more medical institutions and turn its mobile operating system into a repository for the storing and sharing of health data.

The company first began discussing the plan with the agency last year, per emails seen by the WSJ, and it’s unclear how the project has since progressed. However, it appears that Apple could be tapped to migrate medical records for as many as 9 million US veterans to dedicated iOS software, in order to simplify hospital visits and potentially improve care and treatment delivery times. Apple is said to also potentially provide engineering support for the agency as part of the deal. Down the road, the WSJ reports Apple may try to offer subscriptions to health services, like prescription refills, through its Health app, a 15 or 30 percent cut of which could go to Apple if it manages to obtain terms similar to the App Store.

Apple, like Amazon and Google, wants to break into the healthcare industry

The company first began allowing patients to import medical records, including allergies and lab test results, into its Health app back in January, and it’s been steadily adding support for more health institutions since. This deal with Veterans Affairs would mark a significantly larger investment in the healthcare space for Apple, which has been using its Health app and Apple Watch wearable to try and break into the multi-trillion dollar market.

The Apple Watch measures a user’s heart rate and other fitness metrics, and the newest Series 4 model is capable of performing an electrocardiogram, or EKG, for which it successfully sought FDA approval. Apple has also been allowing patients to share info with specialized medical apps using its CareKit platform, and provides the ResearchKit platform for medical studies. Back in February, it was reported that Apple is launching its own medical clinics for employees and their families, under the AC Wellness brand.

Apple isn’t alone in its quest to become a tech-focused player in the healthcare market, which has resisted efforts from Silicon Valley to improve the availability of patient health records due to a number of technological and privacy hurdles. 

Google parent company Alphabet has a dedicated life sciences research subsidiary called Verily and a life extension effort known as Calico, both of which stand to benefit from easier access to wider health data sets and research results. Google also just this month hired a former hospital-system chief executive named David Feinberg, from a company called Geisinger that pioneered the use of electronic medical records, to lead its various healthcare-related initiatives. And over the summer, Amazon purchased online pharmaceutical startup PillPack, as part of its quest to both enter into the healthcare market and also better compete with brick-and-mortar pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens.